Action This Day: Working with Churchill by John (ed) WHEELER-BENNETT


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He seized the receiver from my hand and was subjected to a series of uncomplimentary expletives which clearly fascinated him. Mter listening for a minute or two he explained with great humility that he was only the Prime Minister and that he had been wondering whether there was any naval news. The exasperation, the occasional Prime Ministerial insistence on details which the Chiefs of Staff thought immaterial, the fear which many felt of Churchill (and this applied in particular to the spokesmen for the Service Departments) ; all these were outweighed by the realisation of his forcefulness and competence and by the inspiration which he gave both in public and to those with whom he came into personal contact.

There was no conspiracy or intrigue to force his resignation. The timing of his departure was determined only by the facts of the electoral situation. These pointed inexorably to the conclusion that he should resign in April. He accepted this conclusion and, when the time came, he went with dignity and with general good will. John Colville ASSISTANT PRIVATE SECRETARY I94G-I, I943-5 JOINT PRINCIPAL PRIVATE SECRETARY I95I-5 WisDOM after the event is a privilege no historian can renounce. It is comparatively easy to judge and assess in the sure knowledge of what subsequently happened; but it requires insight and compassion to review a problem as it originally presented itself, and to recreate for posterity the conditions in which decisions had to be made.

In particular, though he had been strenuously opposed to the grant of independence to India, he now accepted this as a fact and treated Nehru with respect as a bastion of civilisation in Asia. But his whole attitude towards the conduct of international affairs was coloured by his desire to return to the wartime system of top-level conferences at which the leaders of the three great Powers could meet in person to iron out their differences and forge a common approach. His meeting with President Eisenhower at the Bermuda Conference in I953 was conducted on the wartime model.

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