ANDREW ROBERTS’ BioGraphy: CHURCHILL WALKING WITH DESTINY

By Richard K. Munro

I thought Martin Gilbert was the last word on Churchill (of course, he prepared the pathway for Roberts I am sure to a degree) but with Andrew Robert’s WALKING WITH DESTINY I gained an insight on Churchill and his world that seems totally fresh and almost brand new to me. I literally laughed and chuckled as I read some of the amusing bon mots of Churchill and curious stories. That is a remarkable achievement.

Churchill said: ‘After seeing many nations, after travelling through Europe, and after having been a prisoner of the Boers, I have come to see that, after all, the chief characteristic of the English-speaking people as compared with other white people is that they wash, and wash at regular periods. England and America are divided by a great ocean of salt water, but united by an eternal bathtub of soap and water.’

Boring and tedious and old hat ANDREW ROBERT’S book is not.

Thrilling and illuminating are the only words for it; the prose is like a torrent of clear fresh water clearing away mysteries and old misconceptions.

We learn much about Churchill’s personal relations and among the most heart-rending are the difficult relations he had with his son, Randolph with whom there was almost a love-hate- relationship. Stories of alleged sexual dalliances outside of marriage by Mrs. Churchill or Churchill himself are not ignored but clearly documented. Some things Roberts leaves up to the reader, wisely.

Roberts has reviewed 41 sets of new papers, the King’s diaries from WWII, Mary Soames’ 1940 diary, the verbatim war cabinet minutes (written in a short hand code that neverhad been deciphered until Roberts got a hold of them). Every quote, every reference is meticulously documented. In addition there are wonderful insights and quotes from the Maisky diaries -Ivan Maisky was the Soviet ambassador to the Court of St James. Maisky’s recently translated diaries featured meetings with Churchill, Anthony Eden and HG Wells. Then there are interesting quotes by Churchill about JFK in the Kay Halle letters at the JFK library. Churchill called JFK “that splendid leader” and asked if there was a photo of himself in the White House.

In Walking with Destiny I learned Churchill’s biography of his father Lord Randolph Churchill ‘was at least partially intended as an explanation of the political somersaults being executed by the author at the time of writing it’. Roberts truthfully tells us… “it is almost worthless as historical biography today, because of the total lack of objectivity and Churchill’s willingness, indeed seeming eagerness, to ignore any evidence that undermined his hagiographical case…..”With this book, which became an overnight bestseller, Churchill dragooning his father into finally doing something useful for him. His casual cruelty as a father was of course not so much as hinted at…” This is a great precis of a book I only knew as a title. Even our Churchill could not overcome his desire to make his father seem greater than he was. Quite human, actually.

In WALKING WITH DESTINY we learn what books Churchill read, what places in America he visited and the people he visited with. Roberts sprinkles his book with references to places associated with Churchill’s WWI service such as Plug Street Experience visitors centre at Rue de Messines 156, Ploegsteert, Comines-Warneton 7782, Belgium. It is indeed eerie to contemplate that Adolf Hitler was stationed only miles from Churchill. Churchill , we learn from personal letters, lamented the loss of his fellow officers and men from his Scottish regiment. They were not numbers to him but men: volunteers from Ayr, Kilmarnock, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leicester and Oldham including. Private W. Russell who was 19 years old when he was killed on 7th February 1916. Churchill had in 1899 stood for election in the northern industrial mill-town of Oldham – and lost. Places in Britain were not just names to Churchill but homes of the British people he had visited and come to know.

We learn what his favorite movies were and the famous actors and authors he knew personally (Churchill had a crush on Ethel Barrymore a legendary actress and beauty of her time). I had no idea that Churchill spent a delightful and refreshing sojourn at the Casa del Desierto in Barstow, California later was added to the National Register of Historic Places ). Churchill said, “We have stopped for two hours at this oasis. We have left the train for a bath in the hotel” It is not far from Bakersfield and on the road to Phoenix.

Before Pearl Harbor Churchill had visited 24 of the 48 states in addition to the District of Columbia. At one point Churchill was introduced to an audience by Mark Twain. He met Theodore Roosevelt. Churchill visited Civil War battlefields with Eisenhower and the famous historian Douglas Southall Freeman. I had no idea that Churchill had crisscrossed the USA several times and visited almost every site of historical or cultural interest such as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Carnegie Hall, The Brooklyn Academy of Music and so on. Roberts writes “Churchill understood from an early age that his father, a leading light of the Conservative party in the first half of the 1880s, was a famous national celebrity, and he asked him for autographs to sell to his classmates.” Who knew?

Roberts writes: “Churchill made a far more extraordinary series of predictions on a Sunday evening in July 1891 in a basement room of Dr Welldon’s house after chapel evensong, when he was discussing his plans with his friend Murland (later Sir Murland) Evans, who worked in the War Office during the First World War and was a man of irreproachable and fastidious recollection. ‘I can see vast changes coming over a now peaceful world;’ Churchill told Evans, ‘great upheavals, terrible struggles; wars such as one cannot imagine; and I tell you London will be in danger – London will be attacked and I shall be very prominent in the defence of London. I see further ahead than you do. I see into the future. This country will be subjected somehow, to a tremendous invasion, by what means I do not know, but I tell you I shall be in command of the defences of London and I shall save London and England from disaster … dreams of the future are blurred but the main objective is clear. I repeat – London will be in danger and in the high position I shall occupy, it will fall to me to save the capital and save the Empire’ This was completely new to me and I have read dozens of books about Churchill.

Before he left for Cuba, in 1895 the director of British Military Intelligence, Colonel Edward Chapman, asked Churchill to discover anything they could on the penetration and striking power of the Spanish army’s new type of bullet. The Spanish had German Mausers and their weapons were superior to that of the American’s in 1898. Roberts writes: “This was Churchill’s inauguration into the world of Secret Intelligence, which was to become hugely important to him later on. Also interesting, this I did not know. I thought he did it on a lark by himself or as a journalist. Over and over again Roberts has new facts, new insights.

Throughout the book there are marvellous quotations from Churchill’s works which unless you have read Churchill’s massive oeuvre in entire, you will find many less known quotations. Churchill wrote ‘Chance, Fortune, Luck, Destiny, Fate, Providence seem to me only different ways of expressing the same thing, to wit, that a man’s own contribution to his life story is dominated by an external superior power.’ Roberts writes of Churchill, {His} capacity for memorizing huge amounts of prose and verse stayed with him for life, and would continue to astonish contemporaries well into his old age. Many were the occasions that he would quote reams of poetry or songs or speeches half a century after having learned them. He was omnivorous in what his mind’s ear chose, which included long Shakespeare soliloquies but also much of the repertoires of music hall performers such as Marie Lloyd, George Robey, ‘Little Tich’, and George Chirgwin (‘the White-Eyed Kaffir’)

We learn from Roberts how Churchill’s life and experience prepared him for leadership in WWII. Roberts writes with great detail: “By the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill had delivered 1,695 speeches and travelled 82,633 miles to give them, an extraordinary display of energy, far more than normal politicians even of the front rank, and an indication of his decades-long drive and energy. By the time he came to deliver his great wartime addresses in the first half of the 1940s, therefore, Churchill was as experienced and assured a public speaker as it was possible for a Briton to be.”

I felt I almost came to know Churchill during while reading WALKING WITH DESTINY. I could almost feel the soul of the great man as I read and pondered this work and chuckled with his witticisms. Roberts certainly did his best to treat this good and noble but imperfect human being with honesty and yet giving credit where it is due.

Churchill was a great statesman but as Roberts point out time and again but also a wise political thinker and a great author –one of the greatest of all time in any language. Churchill is needed today when so many are deceived by the Siren call of the Bold State, Marxist influenced Multiculturalism and Socialism in general. No one in the 20th century compares to Sir Winston Churchill whose greatness is like granite –it endures. And as JFK famously said:
“For no statement or proclamation can enrich his name now–the name Sir Winston Churchill is already legend.”

Robert’s book is very engaging and would make any reader reappraise what he knows and has read.

In short, WALKING WITH DESTINY is the very best education I know to learn about Churchill, his British society, his contemporaries, his family and his world.

EVERY EDUCATED PERSON SHOULD READ and STUDY Churchill: WALKING WITH DESTINY. This is a great read, a must read. WALKING WITH DESTINY is a great book by one of Britain’s most distinguished historians and authors. (
f

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s