Published on 30 Jan 2015

Churchill had his flaws – but his legacy is with us today

Nobody can turn kitsch into culture like the British establishment – but the re-run of Winston Churchill’s funeral was something really rather weird.

As a small vessel passed through a specially opened Tower Bridge, the tourists from the UK and abroad seemed just as mystified as us.

It was the same boat that carried Sir Winston Churchill’s coffin along the Thames in 1965 and it was marking the 50th anniversary of his funeral.

Members of the Churchill family were aboard the Havengore, which travelled to Westminster in central London.

‘An affable man’

There was little apparent fanfare before the event. For many, though, it was a moving and dignified occasion.

Joy Hunter recalled working as a secretary in Churchill’s war room bunker complex: “He was an affable man – very affable. [He] would always say hello and ask you how it was all going whenever you met him in the corridors.”

She recalled how they all stayed around one evening to watch a film being projected. Churchill duly appeared at the last moment wearing pyjamas, brandy in one hand, cigar in the other: “Winnie’s here,” he bellowed,” let’s roll the film.”

 

Christine Cuss had a copy of her father’s book under her arm, a collection of his diaries of the Blitz in London.

“He gave us hope above all else. We lost our home but we could still have street parties and let the enemy know you can blow up our house but you cannot dominate our spirit.”

Complex character

But Churchill was a far more complex character than the 2D war leader. Unquestionably the right man in the right place for that task, he was so often the wrong man in the wrong place for so many others.

Churchill could not have happened today. He would not have been allowed. The disastrous stewardship of Gallipoli abroad to turning the troops on striking miners in these islands.

 

Churchill was an imperialist. He hated trade unions; he thwarted women’s rights and he championed Britain’s use of chemical weapons. No indeed, he would not have been allowed to happen today.

But his prime ministerial legacy from those five critical years of 1940-45 is clear and simple: it give people like me the freedom to write truths like this, 50 years on.

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12 reader comments

  1. Alan Hickman says:

    A fantastic, fanatic cheerleader in our darkest days. We are all fallible but non of us could have ran the war as did he. Thankyou Winston

  2. alan says:

    Selective truths, in line with Channel 4’s corporate responsibility. Mr Churchill failed to consider national interests, His and others ‘political’ interests set this and many other nations on a course that destroyed millions of lives. The same egotistical mentality prevails, political objectives override the interests of the nation.

  3. David Marshall says:

    You write that Churchill was a complex character and not just a 2D war leader but go on to dismiss this complexity completely in favour of a simplistic lazy 2D description of Churchill as an imperialist, as a racist, as a trade union hater, as a thwarter of women’s rights and as a champion for the use of chemical weapons. (In other words as a Christian Saddam Hussein.) This speaks volumes about the plastic modern 2D prism through which Channel 4 News interprets the world. Your politically correct agenda. (Yawn!) is so passe. It’s gone off, well past its use by date. Churchill’s historical legacy is the stuff of legend. He is the Beowolf of the 20th Century. If you get that and you should then you might display a little more humility. Churchill’s character will be a matter of opinion, of conjecture, something to be discussed in a 3D even a multi-dimensional way for centuries to come.

    RIPC Channel 4 News

  4. Stuart McCall says:

    I enjoyed reading this post, I remember watching Churchhills funeral, I was only 8. But even then I knew he was responsible for the war and the Spitfire.
    Thanks for your writings.

  5. Philip Edwards says:

    Alex.

    It wasn’t just “weird” – it was a stupid, sentimental charade.

    True, Churchill was a World War 2 hero. But only one among many millions of all nations who defeated or stood up to the Nazis. Not least the 20 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives either through Nazi genocide or in the military, without whom there would have been no victory at all. Churchill of course wanted to double cross them and immediately attack the Soviet Union.

    The public record shows Churchill was an enemy of the working class citizens of this country, a failure in everything he did in peace time, an opponent of every piece of progressive legislation proposed during his time in parliament.

    No surprise, then, when the British people,memory undimmed, booted him and his tories and his “rich men in their abodes” out of office at their first democratic opportunity in ten years.

    Today was a complete waste of public money.

  6. Cornelia Kuchmy (aged 86) says:

    His body lay in state at Westminster Hall.
    My husband and I took the time to pay our respects (although I had only arrived in England in 1951, from Canada , through marriage).
    My husband, who had gone through the Blitz, stressed that Churchill, with his communications, gave the citizens of this country the strength to deal with the appalling deaths and damage that rained down at the most soul-destroying moments.
    We had to pay our respects.
    The structural damage, at Waterloo station, was still visible in 1951.

  7. Peter Martinelli mbe says:

    Your’s is a view – allowed because the Nazi power was finally smashed, not by our so-called allies who fleeced us and used our peril to demolish the Empire through jealousy and envy.

    No other Btitish politician could ever have saved us. Faults, of course – even the Pope struggles to vote for an angel. Show me a man with no blemish and I will show you a Nobody.

    I lived then – you were not born – your opinion is a trifle.

    Son of Itanlian parents – only son – fourth of 6 children born in Paddington.

    Served by my own choice In the RAF and awarded the MBE – I am horrified by the absurd comments re Churchill’s failures. He was NOT responsible for the disaster at Galipolli nor was he a racist in the meaning of that world today. Slinging journalistic mud at heroes is easy and frankly stupid.

    Let our true citizens know – they are here because this one man saved the World while cowards ran.

    With the greatest respect

    Peter J Martinelli MBE

  8. Katerina Porter says:

    I found this emphasis on flaws unbalanced. Most people during his lifetime were racist, in the sense that we were convinced of the superiority and virtue of Britain and the British Empire (and having lived in ex-colonies found there was residual respect for the Colonial Service and its integrity). Many where anti semitic, which he was emphatically not, and it was his coalition government which worked on preparing a reformed post war Britain, starting with the 1944 Education Act and the Beveridge report, the foundation of our welfare state. He also backed research as on breaking the Enigma code and the development of the nuclear bomb so it was ahead of the German work on theirs. Gallipoli was badly mishandled but was probably a viable idea, and he was a man of great generosity of spirit.

  9. Katerina Porter says:

    in my earlier comment I should have written Colonial Service members.

  10. Frank Kerr says:

    He did a good job in WW2 but he also turned tanks and troops on protesting workers on Bloody Friday, 31-1-1919, also known as the battle of George Square. Workers calling for rights, many of whom were ex-soldiers returned from WW1 and organised by the STUC gunned down. He also lost Ireland. The home rule movement was small until he sent in the “Black and Tans”, and the massacre that was Croke Park. He subsequently did a good job with the Anglo Irish Agreement which divided former comrades. Hero or villain? Often called a butcher.

  11. Alasdair MacPherson says:

    Well said. Good in wartime eventually, not so good in peacetime.

  12. Robert Taggart says:

    Regarding the legacy of WLSC – he wanted a ‘United States of Europe’ (for the ‘continental’ countries anyway) – and we have such.
    He also said “… if Britain had to choose between Europe and the Open Sea – it should choose the Open Sea…” – OH – IF ONLY !

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