Churchill, Peter ‘Michel,’ 1909-1972

Churchill was an early agent of the Special Operations Executive’s French Section. He was a colorful figure who acted fearlessly. He had travelled in Western Europe before the war and in January 1942 went on his first mission. He was landed by submarine at Miramar with money and instructions for Resistance groups to make a brief reconnaissance of the Carte circuit. On his return he wrote a vivid account of his mission. In August 1942 he went on a third mission to Montpellier where he was to organize and co-ordinate supplies for Resistance groups. He was joined by Odette SANSOM in November but the military importance of their work has been exaggerated. He ran into trouble because he did not treat his contacts with sufficient tact and many resisters felt he enjoyed too flamboyant a lifestyle. The Germans began to infiltrate his networks. His main network, Spindle, had to transfer to Annecy. Churchill returned to London in February 1943 but returned on 15 April 1943. He parachuted into a trap and was captured the next day by BLEICHER. He spent the rest of the war in concentration camps and was liberated at the end of the war.

Churchill, Prime Minister Winston Spencer, 1874-1965 ‘What is our policy? I will say it is to wage war by land, sea and air with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us... Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror, Victory however long and hard the road may be.’

In September 1939 Winston Churchill held the post of First Lord of the Admiralty (the same post he had held in World War I) in the Conservative government of Neville CHAMBERLAIN. After the disastrous Norwegian Campaign, for which the country and parliament blamed Chamberlain, Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister and formed a National Government and became Minister of Defense on 11 May 1940. Churchill’s contributions to World War II and the Allied cause are numerous in the extreme. A strong leader, dedicated to Britain and to total victory over the Germans, he banished any thought of surrender.

The mutual friendship between Churchill and the President of the United States, ROOSEVELT, which had developed before the start of World War II, led to the sharing and trading of war supplies and personnel even before the US officially joined the war. The Lend-Lease Act of March 1941 allowed the UK to order and ‘borrow’ war goods on credit—ownership remained nominally in American hands. Everyday communications between Roosevelt and Churchill were carried out by telephone and by letter but the decisions on war strategy were made at a series of international conferences with or without the presence of other leaders such as STALIN or CHIANG Kai-shek. The first conference attended by Churchill and Roosevelt was at Argentia Bay in August 1941 where the Atlantic Charter was signed. The Washington Conference in December of that year established the ‘Germany First’ policy. The two leaders were able to weather many disagreements on strategy, which arose from the conflicting advice of their advisers. The US was naturally suspicious about Churchill’s constant postponements of Overlord in favor of intervention in the Mediterranean and the Balkans. However the US agreed to the Torch landings and then the invasions of Sicily and Italy but once Overlord was under way it received top priority. Roosevelt and Churchill also did not see eye to eye over how to deal with Stalin. Churchill’s anti-Communism led him to treat Stalin with great suspicion but Roosevelt felt that he understood Stalin and could reach an understanding with him over eastern Europe. History has vindicated Churchill’s view and shown him to have been the wiser. Churchill’s negotiations with Stalin at Yalta in February 1945 show that he realistically expected Stalin to take over eastern Europe and so Churchill tried to retain a British interest in Yugoslavia in more than name.

Churchill, was above all a politician and his gifts as a military commander have been called into question. He made errors of judgment—often seeking the advice of inspired amateurs such as CHERWELL and WINGATE—much to the dismay of his military advisers, such as BROOKE. Churchill would sometimes lose sight of his main strategic priorities; for example, the decision to help the Greeks in April 1941 came too late to save Greece and it greatly weakened the British presence in Egypt. Churchill was obsessed with defeating ROMMEL and in consequence, he treated his Desert Commanders badly, sending WAVELL and AUCHINLECK to India.

Churchill’s personality and dynamism helped him maintain successful relations with parliament and the country. He survived two votes of no confidence which were overwhelmingly defeated in parliament. He kept the morale of the country up by broadcasting to the people on significant occasions. One such memorable occasion was on 22 June 1941 after the German invasion of the USSR, when Churchill pledged British support to the Soviets. Had Churchill died on one of his many trips abroad, British morale would have been greatly damaged. However, after the war, the British people who had admired and depended on him, rejected his leadership in the General Election of July 1945. Although often viewed as an ungrateful choice, the decision to allow ATTLEE to assume leadership should not be considered as such. The people of Britain regarded Churchill as a War Prime Minister but thought that someone else should help with the reconstruction of a wartorn Britain. Churchill will undoubtedly remain the principal British hero of the twentieth century.

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