EIGHTEEN

Bargaining with an Empty Wallet

FOR CHURCHILL, the weeks that followed D-Day were dominated by further fruitless wrangles with the Americans. Roosevelt sent him a headmasterly rebuke946, drafted by Cordell Hull, for appearing to concede to the Russians a lead role in Romanian affairs, in return for Soviet acquiescence in British dominance of Greece. To the Americans, this attitude reflected the deplorable British enthusiasm for bilaterally agreed spheres of influence. Churchill replied irritably next day: “It would be quite easy for me, on the general principle of slithering to the left, which is so popular in foreign policy, to let things rip, when the King of Greece would probably be forced to abdicate and [the Communists of] EAM would work a reign of terror … I cannot admit that I have done anything wrong in this matter.” If Roosevelt proposed to take umbrage about British failure to inform the White House about every cable to Stalin concerning Greece and Romania, then what of U.S. messages to Moscow concerning Poland, which the British were not made party to? Churchill concluded sadly: “I cannot think of any moment947 when the burden of the war has lain more heavily upon me or when I have felt so unequal to its ever-more entangled problems.”

The prime minister still favoured landings on the Atlantic coast of France instead of Anvil and, even more dramatically, a major assault on Istria, the northeast Italian coast beyond Trieste, to take place in September. Brooke was cautious about this, warning that the terrain might favour the defence, and could precipitate a winter campaign in the Alps. But the Chiefs and their master were galvanised by an intercepted German signal on June 17. In this Hitler declared his determination to hold Apennine positions as “the final blocking line” to prevent the Allies from breaking into the northern Italian plain of the Po. Here, in British eyes, was compelling evidence of the German commitment to Italy, and thus of the value of contesting mastery there. The Americans—both Eisenhower andthe U.S. Chiefs—were unimpressed. There followed one of the most acrimonious Anglo-American exchanges of the war.

The British Chiefs insisted that it was “unacceptable” for more Allied forces to be withdrawn from Italy. Eisenhower, as supreme commander, reasserted his commitment to the landings in southern France, and even more strongly rejected British notions, propounded in a plan drawn up by Maitland Wilson as Mediterranean C-in-C, for a drive from northeast Italy to the so-called Ljubljana Gap. On June 20 Ike wrote to Marshall that Maitland Wilson’s plan “seems to discount the fact that Combined Chiefs of Staff have long ago decided to make Western Europe the base from which to conduct decisive operations against Germany. To authorize any departure from this sound decision seems to me ill-advised and potentially dangerous … In my opinion to contemplate wandering off overland via Trieste to Ljubljana repeat Ljubljana is to indulge in conjecture to an unwarrantable degree … I am unable to repeat unable to see how overriding necessity for exploiting the early success of Overlord is thereby assisted.” The American Chiefs signalled on June 24 that Maitland Wilson’s Trieste plan was “unacceptable.” They confirmed their insistence that the three U.S. and seven French divisions earmarked for Anvil should be withdrawn from Italian operations.

Ill-advisedly, Churchill appealed against this decision to Roosevelt, while on June 26 the British Chiefs of Staff reaffirmed the “unacceptability” of the redeployment in a signal to their counterparts in Washington. Marshall remained immovable. On the twenty-eighth, Churchill dispatched a note to the president in which he wrote: “Whether we should ruin all hopes948 of a major victory in Italy and all its fronts and condemn ourselves to a passive role in that theatre, after having broken up the fine Allied army which is advancing so rapidly through the peninsula, for the sake of ‘Anvil’ with all its limitations, is indeed a grave question for His Majesty’s Government and the President, with the Combined Chiefs of Staff, to decide.” He himself, he said, was entirely hostile to Anvil. The next day, Roosevelt rejected Churchill’s message: “My interests and hopes,”949 he said, “center on defeating the Germans in front of Eisenhower and driving on into Germany, rather than on limiting this action for the purpose of staging a full major effort in Italy.” Roosevelt added, in the midst of his own reelection campaign, that there were also political implications: “I should never survive even a slight setback in ‘Overlord’ if it were known that fairly large forces had been diverted to the Balkans.”

Amazingly, Churchill returned to the charge. In a message to Roosevelt on July 1, after a long exposition of the futility of Anvil—“the splitting up of the campaign in the Mediterranean into two operations neither of which can do anything decisive, is, in my humble and respectful opinion, the first major strategic and political error for which we two have to be responsible”—he concluded: “What can I do, Mr. President950, when your Chiefs of Staff insist on casting aside our Italian offensive campaign, with all its dazzling possibilities … when we are to see the integral life of this campaign drained off into the Rhone Valley? … I am sure that if we could have met, as I so frequently proposed, we should have reached a happy agreement.” This was woeful stuff. It was supremely tactless for the prime minister to suggest to the president that, if he had been able to browbeat him face to face, he might have persuaded him to override his own Chiefs of Staff. To the British Chiefs, he expressed contempt for their American counterparts: “The Arnold-King-Marshall combination is one of the stupidest951 strategic teams ever seen. They are good fellows and there is no need to tell them this.”

The Americans were unmoved by the barrage of cables from London. The British, with icy formality, acceded to the launch of Anvil—now renamed Dragoon—on August 15. This was the moment at which Churchill perceived his own flagging influence upon the U.S. president, and thus upon his country. “Up till Overlord,”952 wrote Jock Colville later, “he saw himself as the supreme authority to whom all military decisions were referred.” Thereafter, he became, “by force of circumstances, little more than a spectator.” The prime minister afterwards told Moran: “Up to July 1944 England953 had a considerable say in things; after that I was conscious that it was America who made the big decisions.”

The British adopted a stubbornly proprietorial attitude to the Italian campaign, long after it had turned sour, and even after the dazzling success of Overlord. Marshall had made his share of mistakes in the course of the war—but so had Brooke and Churchill. Nothing in the summer exchanges between London and Washington justified the prime minister’s condescension towards the U.S. Chiefs. Though Eisenhower is often, and sometimes justly, criticised for lack of strategic imagination, he and Marshall were assuredly right to insist upon the concentration of force in France.

Yet it was hard for Churchill to bow to the relegation of himself and his country from the big decisions. An American political scientist, William Fox, coined the word superpower in 1944. He took it for granted that Britain could be counted as one. The true measure of superpowerdom, however, is a capability to act unilaterally. This, Churchill’s nation had lost. Dismay and frustration showed in his temper. Eden wrote on July 6: “After dinner a really ghastly defence committee954 nominally on Far Eastern strategy. We opened with a reference from W. to American criticism of Monty for over-caution, which W. appeared to endorse. This brought explosion from CIGS.” Brooke wrote in his own diary:

A frightful meeting with Winston955 which lasted until 2 am!! It was quite the worst we have had with him. He was very tired as a result of his speech in the House concerning the flying bombs, he had tried to recuperate with drink. As a result he was in a maudlin, bad-tempered, drunken mood, ready to take offence at anything, suspicious of everybody, and in a highly vindictive mood against the Americans. In fact so vindictive that his whole outlook on strategy was warped. I began by having a bad row with him. He began to abuse Monty because operations were not going faster … I flared up and asked him if he could not trust his generals for 5 minutes instead of continuously abusing them and belittling them … He then put forward a series of puerile proposals, such as raising a Home Guard in Egypt to provide a force to deal with disturbances in the Middle East. It was not until midnight that we got onto the subject we had come to discuss, the war in the Far East! … He finished by falling out with Attlee and having a real good row with him concerning the future of India! We withdrew under cover of this smokescreen just on 2 am, having accomplished nothing beyond losing our tempers and valuable sleep!!

Eden commented later: “I called this ‘a deplorable evening,’956 which it certainly was. Nor could it have happened a year earlier; we were all marked by the iron of five years of war.” Accounts like that of Brooke, describing such passages of arms with Churchill, dismayed those who loved the prime minister, both his personal staff and family, when they were later published. The prime minister’s former intimates took special exception to criticisms that his conduct of office was adversely affected by alcohol. The CIGS was coupled with Lord Moran, whose diary appeared in 1966, not only as a betrayer of the Churchillian legend but also as a false witness about his conduct. Yet the two men’s views were widely shared. After listening to the prime minister for a time at a committee meeting, Food Minister Lord Woolton leaned over and whispered to Dalton like a naughty schoolboy: “He is very tight.”957 Exhaustion and frustration probably influenced Churchill’s outbursts more than brandy. But the evidence is plain: in 1944–45 he suffered increasingly from loss of intellectual discipline, sometimes even of coherence.

The pugnacity that had served his country so wonderfully well in earlier years became distressing when directed against his own colleagues, men of ability and dedication, who knew that they did not deserve to be so brutally handled. Churchill could rouse his extraordinary powers on great occasions, of which some still lay ahead. There would be many more flashes of brilliance and wit. But key figures in Britain’s war leadership, instead of looking directly to him as the fount of all decisions, were now peering over his shoulder, towards a future from which they assumed that he would be absent. Eden, craving the succession, chafed terribly when the prime minister seemed unwilling to acknowledge his own political mortality. “Lunched alone with W,”958 he wrote on July 17. “He was in pretty good spirits. My face fell when he said that when coalition broke up we should have two or three years of opposition and then come back together to clear up the mess!”

Yet there were still many moments when Churchill won hearts, including that of the foreign secretary, by displays of whimsy and sweetness. On August 4, when Eden called959 at Downing Street with his son Nicholas, on holiday from school at Harrow, the prime minister surreptitiously slipped into the boy’s hand two pound notes, more than a fortnight’s pay for an army private, with a muttered and of course vain injunction not to tell “him.” Churchill’s companions became bored when he recited long extracts fromMarmionand The Lays of Ancient Rome across the dinner table at Chequers, but how many other national leaders in history could have matched such performances? He was moved to ecstasies by a screening of Laurence Olivier’s new film of Henry V, not least because he was in no doubt about who was playing the king’s part in England’s comparable mid-twentieth-century epic. His impatience remained undiminished. Driving with Brooke from Downing Street to Northolt, their convoy encountered a diversion for road repairs. Churchill insisted on lifting the barriers and urging the cars along a footpath. The king himself would never do such a thing, the miscreant declared gleefully, for “he was far more law-abiding.”960

As for the war, by late summer 1944 the apprehension which dogged Churchill and his service chiefs through the spring was now supplanted by assurance that Germany’s doom was approaching. But when? On this, the prime minister displayed better judgement than the generals. Until the end of September, they envisaged a final Nazi collapse by the turn of the year. Churchill, by contrast, told a staff conference on July 14: “Of course it was true that the Germans961 were now faced with grave difficulties and they might give up the struggle. On the other hand, such evidence as there was seemed to show that they intended to continue that struggle, and he believed that if they tried to do so, they should be able to carry on well into next year.” His view remained unchanged even after the drama of the failed bomb plot against Hitler on July 20. This highlighted German internal opposition to Hitler—and its weakness.

Some illusions persist that the wartime Allies missed opportunities to promote the cause of “good Germans” who opposed Hitler, rejecting approaches from such men as Adam von Trott. Yet the British seemed right, first, to assume that any dalliance of this kind must leak, fuelling Soviet paranoia about a negotiated peace and, second, in believing that the anti-Hitler faction was both weak and flawed. Michael Howard has written: “We know that such ‘right-minded people’962 did exist; but the remarkable thing is that … there should have been so few of them, and that their influence should have been so slight.” Howard notes that most of the July 1944 bomb plotters were right-wing nationalists, who cherished grotesquely extravagant ambitions for their country’s postwar polity. The principal objective of most of those who joined the conspiracy against Hitler, as the Foreign Office perceived at the time, was to enlist Anglo-American aid against the Russians. It is easy to understand why postwar Germans sought to canonise the July bomb plotters. But it would have represented folly for Churchill’s government to dally with them, and there is no cause for historians to concede them exaggerated respect. A large majority of the July 20 conspirators turned against Hitler not because he was indescribably wicked, but because they perceived that he was leading Germany to defeat.

That July, in the face of new intelligence reports about the operations of the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Churchill wrote to Eden in the most explicit terms he used during the war about the nature of Nazi action against the Jews: “There is no doubt963 that this is probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world … It is clear that all concerned in this crime who may fall into our hands, including the people who only obeyed orders by carrying out the butcheries, should be put to death.” Yet once again, the British dismissed the notion of bombing the death camps’ facilities or transport links, partly on the grounds of inefficacy, that any damage could be readily repaired, and that anyway only the USAAF’s day bombers were capable of the necessary precision, and partly on the spurious grounds that deportations of Jews from Hungary—reports of which prompted Churchill’s note—appeared to have ceased.

Even at this stage, the scale of Nazi killings eluded British policymakers. An intelligence officer964 privy to Ultra decrypts who lectured to senior soldiers in 1944 about Germany’s machinery of repression spoke in his briefings of killings in the thousands, not the millions, and did not explicitly mention Jews. Likewise the November 1943 joint Allied Moscow Declaration, warning of retribution against Germans who participated in “wholesale shooting of Italian officers or in the execution of French, Dutch, Belgian or Norwegian hostages or of Cretan peasants, or who have shared in the slaughter inflicted on the people of Poland or in territories of the Soviet Union,” omitted Jews.

British and American intelligence possessed enough information by late 1944, from Ultra and escaped Auschwitz prisoners, to deduce that something uniquely terrible was being done to the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, if the right conclusions had been drawn from the evidence. The failure of either government to act has incurred brutal strictures from postwar critics. Yet Churchill, Roosevelt and their principal subordinates seem to deserve some sympathy for their admittedly inadequate responses. First, an instinctive reluctance persisted both in London and Washington to conceive a European society, even one ruled by the Nazis, capable of killings on the titanic scale exposed in 1945–46. Second, evidence about the massacre of Jews was still perceived in the context of other known mass killings of Russians, Poles, Greeks, Yugoslavs, Italians and other subject races. The British, especially, were wary of repeating the mistakes of the First World War, when reports of German atrocities, though real enough, were wilfully exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Such exploitation roused postwar anger among British people towards their own government.

Finally, given the known limitations of precision bombing even where good target intelligence was available, the case for specific action against the Nazi death machine seemed overborne by the overarching argument for hastening military victory to end the sufferings of all Europe’s oppressed peoples. The airmen could be sure that any bombing of the camps would kill many prisoners. It is the privilege of posterity to recognise that this would have been a price worth paying. In the full tilt of war, to borrow Churchill’s phrase from a different context, it is possible to understand why the British and Americans failed to act with the energy and commitment which hindsight shows to have been appropriate. Temperate historians of the period recognise a real doubt about whether any plausible air force action would substantially have impeded the operations of the Nazi death machine.

Again and again that summer, Churchill found his aspirations thwarted. He was eager that Britain should have the honour of hosting a summit, after he himself had travelled so far and often to dance attendance on Roosevelt and Stalin. He now proposed as a venue Invergordon, in Scotland, arguing that each leader could arrive there by battleship. The king would be able to entertain the Big Three at Balmoral. Stalin flatly refused to leave Russia. Even when Roosevelt agreed to a bilateral meeting, and after briefly professing enthusiasm for Invergordon, to Churchill’s chagrin he finally decided that the conference should not take place in Britain. The president was unwilling, especially in a U.S. election year, to be seen as the guest of his nation’s subordinate partner. A second visit to Quebec was scheduled for September.

Churchill’s lonely struggle to save fragments of Polish freedom became ever less rewarding. He allowed himself a surge of hope when Stalin cabled on July 23, endorsing a “unification of Poles friendly disposed towards Great Britain, the USSR and the United States.” Interpreting this—which Eden did not—as a sign that Stalin was willing to accommodate the “London Poles” in a new regime, Churchill told Roosevelt: “This seems to be the best ever965 received from Uncle Joe.” But the significance soon became clear of Stalin’s recognition of Moscow’s puppet Polish National Committee, dubbed in London the “Lublin Poles.” Stalin was bent on a Communist-dominated Polish government, with only token representation of other interests. Under extreme pressure from Churchill, the Polish exile prime minister in London, Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, agreed to fly to Moscow. But Mikolajczyk rightly anticipated that obeisance to Stalin would serve no purpose either for himself or his country’s freedom.

On July 31, with Soviet forces only fifteen miles away across the Vistula, the Polish Home Army in Warsaw launched its uprising. Through the agonising weeks that followed, Churchill strove to gain access to Russian landing grounds to be used to dispatch arms to the Poles. The most earnest and humble pleas to Stalin—and in some of Churchill’s cables, he was indeed reduced to begging—failed to move Moscow. The Russian leader believed that Churchill had deliberately provoked the Warsaw Rising to secure for the “London Poles” the governance of their country. Moscow was determined to prevent any such outcome. The prime minister had certainly since 1940 promoted an ideal of popular revolt, and some SOE officers encouraged Polish delusions. But he was in no way complicit in the launch of the Warsaw Rising, an explicitly local initiative. Though he sustained his campaign on behalf of Polish freedom for many months to come, he knew how great the odds were against success. While the Americans were not indifferent, they seemed so both in London and Moscow. The Red Army stood deep inside Poland, while Eisenhower’s forces were far, far away.

Even more serious, from Churchill’s viewpoint, was the frustration of his strategic wishes. He made a last, vain attempt to persuade the Americans against a campaign in Burma. Throughout the war, while Churchill was eager that British forces should be seen to regain Britain’s colonies in the Far East, his interest in the military means by which this should be accomplished was sporadic and unconvincing. Most of his attention, and almost all his heart, focused upon the German war, even as Slim’s imperial army prepared to advance towards the Chindwin frontier of Burma.

Until almost the last day before the landing in southern France on August 15, Churchill argued doggedly against “the Anvil abortion,” pleading for alternative assaults on the Atlantic coast of France, or in northeast Italy. “I am grieved to find that even splendid victories and widening opportunities do not bring us together on strategy,” he wrote to Hopkins in Washington on August 6. The British failed to perceive that the arguments for getting into southern France were less persuasive in rousing U.S. determination than those for getting every possible man out of Italy.

As Churchill railed in the face of so many difficulties and disappointments, he adopted a familiar panacea: personal activity. In a fashion imbued with pathos, because it marked his transition from prime mover to spectator, he became for some weeks a battlefield tourist. During his travels he conducted some business. But his journeys represented a substitute for implementing policy, rather than a means of doing so. On July 20 he flew to Normandy, where 1.4 million Allied troops were now deployed. On August 5, he again toured the battle zone and met commanders. Both trips delighted him, for he savoured proximity to the music of gunfire as much as ever. He underrated the scale and speed of the developing German collapse in France, and the new strategic opportunities which would follow. He expected months more fighting before Allied troops reached the borders of Germany. Had he understood that dramatic change in the circumstances of Eisenhower’s armies was imminent, with the collapse of German resistance in France, he would probably have remained at hand, to dispatch a flood of imprecatory messages to Roosevelt, Marshall, Eisenhower and Brooke. As it was, however, he departed for the Mediterranean.

On August 11, he landed in Algiers. Summoning de Gaulle for a meeting, he was infuriated when the Frenchman, seething with indignation about the Allies’ refusal to grant him authority in his own country, declined to attend. Randolph Churchill, recuperating after a plane crash in Yugoslavia, met his father and heard a stormy denunciation of de Gaulle. Afterwards, in an unusually statesmanlike intervention, Randolph urged pity: “After all, he is a frustrated man966 representing a defeated country. You as the unchallenged leader of England and the main architect of victory could well afford to be magnanimous.” Churchill wrote to Clementine: “I feel that de Gaulle’s France will be a France more hostile967 to England than any since Fashoda [in 1898].”

Nonetheless, under relentless pressure from Eden, Churchill supported de Gaulle’s cause against the Americans. Before D-Day, Admiral Leahy, Roosevelt’s chief of staff who had served as U.S. ambassador to Vichy, told the president that the Allies would find Marshal Pétain their most appropriate French negotiating partner, because of his popularity with his own people. In the weeks following the invasion, this delusion was confounded by French Resistance fighters who seized power in liberated areas, and displayed overwhelming support for de Gaulle. The men of Vichy were consigned by their countrymen to prison or oblivion. Late in August, the general was allowed to return to France, where he became the country’s de facto ruler. Two months later, albeit with the deepest reluctance, Washington recognised his leadership of a French provisional government.

On August 12, Churchill flew to Italy, where he installed himself in Maitland Wilson’s residence, the Villa Rivalta, overlooking the Bay of Naples. He remained in Italy for more than two weeks, bathing several times in the sea, much to his pleasure, and conducting meetings. He continued to fume about the diversion of forces to France. In those days of mid-August, 100,000 men were being transferred in landing ships from Italy. Offshore in a launch one sunny morning, Churchill found himself hailed by thousands of troops lining the rails of vessels on passage to the Côte d’Azur. He acknowledged their cheers, but wrote in his memoirs, “They did not know that if I had had my way968, they would have been sailing in a different direction.” As for the Italian people, after years of proclaiming the need for firmness, if not harshness, toward Mussolini’s nation, the sight of smiling Italian faces now softened his heart, rekindling his lifelong instinct towards mercy.

He met Tito, flown in from Yugoslavia, and feted him considerably. The Communist leader returned to his headquarters so enchanted by the prime minister that some of his partisan comrades were alarmed. Dismissing their warnings of the British leader’s duplicity, the Yugoslav enthused: “It isn’t as simple as you think! Yes, Churchill is an imperialist, an anti-Communist! But you won’t believe it, his eyes were filled with tears when he met me. He almost sobbed, ‘You’re the first person from enslaved Europe I have met!’ Churchill even told me that he had wanted to parachute into Yugoslavia, but he was too old!” One partisan shook his head and muttered to another, “The English are clever969: an escort of warships and naval manoeuvres in honour of the Old Man [Tito], and I see that it’s had its effect on him!”

On August 16, Churchill watched the Dragoon landing from an assault vessel a few miles offshore. In a letter to Clementine, he portrayed the splendour of the armada “all spread along twenty miles of coast970 with poor St. Tropez in the centre.” The invaders met little opposition, and were soon racing northeastward to a linkage with Eisenhower’s armies on September 12. The prime minister spent hours in talks about Mediterranean policy with Macmillan, Maitland Wilson and others. British handling of Italian affairs was unimpressive, and perceived as such by the Americans. Churchill and Eden acquiesced in the return from Moscow of exiled Communist leader Palmiro Togliatti, and his inclusion in the Italian government in exchange for its recognition by the Russians. Dogged British resistance to the participation of Count Carlo Sforza, a former foreign minister who had been living in the United States and was esteemed by the Americans, annoyed Washington intensely. London was taken unawares when Marshal Badoglio was ejected from the Italian leadership in June 1944. Thereafter, British struggles to create and sustain a Rome government acceptable to Churchill and his colleagues incurred constant criticism from the U.S. State Department and media. The Americans’ own ideas were naïve, but founded in a commitment to Italian rights of self-determination, which they perceived the British as flouting in their old imperialistic way.

Increasingly Churchill’s attention focused upon Greece, where he perceived serious danger of a Communist takeover. The guerrillas of EAM/ELAS, armed by the SOE, were the best-organised force in the country. As the Germans began to withdraw from southern Greece, Churchill ordered that British troops should be readied to fly into Athens the moment the enemy abandoned the city, to forestall a Communist coup. It was hard to find men, when the Allied armies in Italy had been so much depleted for Dragoon, but forces for Greece, the prime minister insisted, had to be found. Some airborne units were earmarked.

Then he advanced towards the front, dressed in army summer rig with medal ribbons and a solar topee that would have looked absurd on any other man. Alexander drove him to a hilltop on which he could hear small-arms fire, watch machine gunners flail the enemy amid showers of empty cases spinning away into the dust and see tanks grinding into action. The outing provided him with as much happiness as any experience in the last months of the war. He was in the midst of a British army which, if not immediately triumphant, was indisputably predominant, in the company of a general whom he deemed a paladin. Alexander received far fewer reproaches for slow progress than did Montgomery. Churchill blamed the misfortunes of the joyless, bloody Italian theatre exclusively upon the Americans. They, he believed, had stripped Alex’s army of the means with which it might have changed the fate of Europe and spared the Balkans from Soviet domination. Many of those engaged in the struggle, and bearing its sacrifices, shared his opinion. A humble Eighth Army signaller wrote in his diary on August 27, 1944, “I feel sure this is a secondary971 front and therefore being denied the vital necessities of war.”

On August 29, Churchill landed back in Britain with a temperature of 103 degrees, and a patch on his lung which caused his doctors to prescribe another course of antibiotics. He had achieved nothing of substance in the Mediterranean, nor in Normandy, save to assuage a growing sense of his own impotence, and to indulge his passion for witnessing great events. Foreign Office official Oliver Harvey muttered scornfully about the prime minister “fooling about in Italy.”972 Amid the miseries and slaughter inflicted on London by the flying-bomb offensive, Churchill faced greater personal risk at home than in Normandy or the Mediterranean. Though his government had much to do, most of the tasks were uncongenial to him. More and more of his ministers’ time was occupied with preparing for peace. At worst, victory could not be more than a year or two away. The British people looked with eagerness mingled with uncertainty towards a future without war. Yet the prime minister’s interest in domestic matters was spasmodic and perfunctory. David Reynolds notes973 that in Churchill’s memoirs, he makes no mention of the 1944 Butler Education Act, the most important piece of domestic legislation passed during his wartime premiership. Ismay once observed, “The PM can be counted on to score974 a hundred in a Test Match, but is no good at village cricket.” The issues of postwar reconstruction, the mundane concerns of the careworn British people, required ministers to take the field in many village cricket matches.

Winning the war, and securing the place of the British Empire in the new world, were Churchill’s unaltering preoccupations. Because the Americans perceived the prime minister as the embodiment of his country, they failed to recognise that many younger British people, some of them in government, saw as surely as did Roosevelt and his compatriots that the day of empire was done. For those obliged to work with Churchill, difficulties mounted. His flagging health, rambling monologues and refusal to address business which did not stimulate his interest posed great difficulties. Leo Amery complained: “Our Cabinet meetings certainly get more975 and more incoherent, though I notice that there is much more talking by everybody, often simultaneously, than there used to be when Winston held the field entirely by himself … What makes me so tired at Cabinets is the same feeling that one has in a taxi wishing to catch a train with a driver who dawdles and misses every green light.”

The philosopher and historian Isaiah Berlin wrote: “Churchill is preoccupied by his own976 vivid world, and it is doubtful how far he has ever been aware of what actually goes on in the heads and hearts of others. He does not react, he acts; he does not mirror, he affects others and alters them to his own powerful measure … His conduct stems from great depth and constancy of feeling—in particular, feeling for and fidelity to the great tradition for which he assumes a personal responsibility, a tradition which he bears upon his shoulders and must deliver, not only sound and undamaged but strengthened and embellished, to successors worthy of accepting the sacred burden.” This seems profoundly true of Churchill’s behaviour in the last months of the war. Two or three years earlier, he had power to shape events as well as popular perceptions of them. Now, the world was going on its way with ever less heed for his grandiose antique vision, though it could still be moved by his words.

Through the autumn, the miseries of Poland provided a running theme, as the Nazis suppressed the Warsaw Rising with familiar savagery. Not only Stalin, but also Roosevelt, resisted Churchill’s impassioned pleas to press Moscow about the Warsaw Home Army. The Americans wanted Siberian bases for their B-29 bomber operations against Japan, and were unwilling to provoke the Russians about what they perceived as lesser matters. On August 26, the president rejected an appeal from Churchill that the United States and Britain should dispatch a strongly worded joint protest to Moscow about Poland. Roosevelt wrote: “I do not consider it advantageous977 to the long-range general war prospects for me to join with you in the proposed message to Uncle J.” On September 4 the prime minister, still unwell, felt obliged to rise from his sickbed to calm a Cabinet whose members were sincerely angered by events in Warsaw. While he welcomed spontaneous media expressions of dismay, he urged that ministers should remain temperate about Russian behaviour.

Churchill was still ailing when he boarded the Queen Mary at Greenock on September 6, bound for Quebec. Brooke remarked that he seemed “old, unwell and depressed978. Evidently found it hard to concentrate and kept holding his head between his hands.” Conditions belowdecks for most of the crossing were oppressively hot. After the austerities of British diet, on the liner the customary sybaritic fare was provided for the prime minister’s party. Jock Colville described their meals as “gargantuan in scale979 and epicurean in quality; rather shamingly so.” There was the usual glittering table talk, faithfully recorded by the three notable diarists aboard—Colville, Brooke and Moran. The prime minister said that he would not regret980 the loss of any Labour colleague from his government save Bevin, the only one whose character and capacity he esteemed. He lamented the fact that he no longer felt that he had a message to deliver to the British people: “All he could now do was to finish the war981, to get the soldiers home and to see that they had houses to which to return. But materially and financially the prospects were black.”

He found time to read, first Trollope’s Phineas Finn, then The Duke’s Children, which describes a Victorian political grandee’s embarrassments with his offspring. The latter novel can scarcely have failed to prick Churchill, at a time when his own son’s marriage to his wife, Pamela, was breaking up. She had conducted a notable affair with Averell Harriman, a future husband, and was later unkindly described as having become “a world expert on rich men’s bedroom ceilings.” Earlier that year, Churchill982 achieved one of his few moments of intimacy with Brooke, when the two men discussed tête-à-tête over supper their difficulties with their respective grown-up children.

But, while the prime minister struggled to recruit his strength, as usual he spent many hours on the Queen Mary preparing for the summit. He minuted the Chiefs of Staff during their passage that Britain should “not yield central and southern Europe entirely to Soviet ascendancy or domination.” This was, he said, an issue of “high political consequences, but also has serious military potentialities.”983 He expressed distress that the British and imperial armies were nowhere advancing the nation’s standard as he would have wished. One-third of their strength, in northwest Europe, was deployed under U.S. command; one-third in India was about to launch an offensive in Burma, “the most unhealthy country in the world under the worst possible conditions,” merely to appease America’s China ambitions; and the remaining one-third in Italy had been emasculated for Dragoon. Had he known, he said, that the Americans would use their monopoly of landing ships unilaterally to enforce strategy, he would have ensured that Britain built her own. He was appalled to hear that Mountbatten was demanding 370,000 men and 24,000 vehicles from Europe before launching an assault against Rangoon. He still craved an amphibious landing on the Istrian Peninsula, “in the armpit of the Adriatic.”

Churchill arrived in Quebec by overnight train on the morning of September 11, within a few minutes of the president. They drove together from the station to the Citadel. The next day, Colville heard the prime minister say that he would that evening discuss postwar occupation zones in Germany with Roosevelt. The private secretary, knowing Churchill had not studied the relevant papers, offered to read them aloud to him in his bath. This procedure proved only partially successful, because of Churchill’s tendency to submerge himself from time to time, missing key passages of the brief. The prime minister cabled to the War Cabinet in London that the conference had opened “in a blaze of friendship.” There was indeed a blaze of courtesies, but not of agreed policies. In Churchill’s opening exposition of events, he sought to flatter the Americans by saying that the results of the detested Dragoon were “most gratifying.” Roosevelt interrupted him, observing mischievously—even maliciously—that “some of the credit for the conception was due to Marshal Stalin.” Churchill then talked much about Italy, and the merits of striking for Vienna. He seemed oblivious of American boredom and indifference. Cunningham, the first sea lord, thought Roosevelt “looked very frail, and hardly to be taking in what was going on.”

The two leaders wasted considerable time discussing the plan of Henry Morgenthau, the Treasury secretary, for pastoralising postwar Germany. The president, knowing that Churchill was increasingly fearful about how Britain could pay its bills when Lend-Lease ended, said that deindustrialising the Ruhr would remove Britain’s principal competitor in Europe. Great economic opportunities could thus shine upon the British people. This notion prompted a spasm of enthusiasm in Churchill. Cherwell, in one of his baleful interventions, urged the scheme’s merits. On September 15, both leaders formally endorsed the Morgenthau Plan, to the horror of both Cordell Hull and Anthony Eden, who said the British Cabinet would never accept it. Roosevelt quickly recognised that he had made a mistake. The Morgenthau Plan was forgotten—except by Nazi propagandists, when the story leaked. In the last months of the war, many Germans believed Goebbels when he told them that, if they bowed to defeat, they would be condemned to become slave labourers in a peasant economy. The Treasury secretary’s foolish initiative at Quebec motivated some enemies to fight even more desperately than they might otherwise have done, even to the last ditch.

The final formal session of the conference took place on September 16. Churchill proclaimed his commitment to dispatch a major fleet to join the Pacific campaign, as soon as the European war allowed. He made much of this, heedless of the fact that the Royal Navy’s ships were as worn and battered as their crews. They lacked ventilation systems appropriate to Pacific conditions. And carrier operations, the dominant feature of the campaign, were the least impressive British naval combat skill. At the closing press conference of the summit, appearing as usual beside the president, the prime minister trumpeted Britain’s commitment to the Pacific theatre. He prompted laughter among the assembled American correspondents when he said: “You can’t have all the good things to yourselves. You must share.” He then waxed lyrical about the virtues of summitry: “When I have the rare and fortunate chance to meet the President of the United States, we are not limited in our discussions by any sphere … The fact that we have worked so long together, and the fact that we have got to know each other so well under the hard stresses of war, makes the solution of problems so much simpler, so swift and so easy it is.”

This was flummery. In truth, even after two days with Roosevelt at Hyde Park before boarding the Queen Mary in New York on September 20 for the voyage home, Churchill knew how little he had achieved. “What is this conference?” he rumbled to Moran. “Two talks with the Chiefs of Staff; the rest was waiting to put in a word with the President.” The British had been dismayed to note the absence of Harry Hopkins from Quebec. Even when their favourite American sage appeared at Hyde Park, it was plain that Hopkins no longer enjoyed his old intimacy with Roosevelt. Especially in a U.S. election year, he represented baggage which the president did not wish to be associated with, not least because Hopkins was perceived by his countrymen as too susceptible to British special pleading. Now that the British saw that his influence was gone, their old affection ebbed shamelessly. Brendan Bracken dismissed him984 as “weak” and “useless.” Yet there is no reason to suppose985 that Hopkins was moved by pique when he warned Halifax, in Washington, that a Republican victory in the imminent presidential election might serve British interests better than the return of Franklin Roosevelt. To this, the “historic partnership” had descended.

Churchill was in mellow mood on the voyage home, but saw nothing in which to rejoice. The Warsaw Rising was all but over, despite belated and almost entirely unsuccessful arms drops to the defeated Home Army by 110 USAAF Flying Fortresses, which were grudgingly permitted to refuel in Russia. Eden had failed to persuade the Quebec conference to recognise the French National Committee as the nation’s government. Churchill told Colville that following the events of recent years, “my illusions about the French986have been greatly corroded.” It was another month before de Gaulle’s obvious primacy among his countrymen obliged Washington to relent.

On September 28, back in London, Churchill reported to the Commons. With barely permissible nationalistic hyperbole, he described Normandy as “the greatest and most decisive single battle of the whole war.” He hailed Burma as “the campaign of Admiral Mountbatten,” a slight upon Gen. Bill Slim, the fine commander conducting the British offensive. He sought to make the best of defeat at Arnhem, seeing cause for celebration in an unaccustomed display of boldness by the Allies, even though the airborne assault had failed to secure a Rhine crossing. At the beginning of October, British troops began to move into southern Greece behind the retreating Germans. Churchill made a renewed plea to Roosevelt for the transfer of three U.S. divisions from France to Italy—and received the inevitable refusal.

It was against the background of repeated American snubs that Churchill now embarked upon his most controversial wartime journey. He determined to fly to Moscow for bilateral talks with Stalin. It is impossible to perceive this mission as other than a gesture of desperation. Having failed to enlist American support for any of the purposes which now mattered most to him, instead he sought to achieve them by going head-to-head with the Russians. Yet Stalin bargained only for advantage. Britain could offer nothing of interest to him. He well understood that the Americans had distanced themselves from Churchill’s nation. The prime minister’s behaviour can only be explained by acknowledging that he still nursed an exaggerated self-belief in his ability to reach personal understandings with Stalin. There was a pathos about his flight to Moscow in October 1944, well understood by those who worked most closely with the tired old prime minister.

He paused briefly in Italy, hearing from his commanders a tale of inadequate resources and sluggish progress. He saw Georgios Papandreou, and embarrassed the Greek prime minister by subjecting him to a long lecture on the virtues of monarchy. On October 9 he arrived in Moscow and was driven to Molotov’s dacha, his residence for the visit. At the first meeting with Stalin, he plunged immediately into a demand that Britain should have the principal voice in determining the future of Greece. He soon made it plain to the Soviet warlord that he spoke for himself, for Britain, and not for its transatlantic partner. Stalin observed silkily that Roosevelt “demanded too many rights for the United States of America, leaving too little for the Soviet Union and Great Britain.” Churchill produced what he called a “naughty document.” This was the draft of what became known as the “percentages agreement,” in American eyes the most notorious piece of chicanery in Churchill’s premiership. In Romania, Russia was to be recognised as having a 90 percent interest, while “the others” had 10 percent. In Greece, these figures were to be reversed. In Yugoslavia and Hungary, interests would be shared fifty-fifty. In Bulgaria, Russia would have a 75 percent interest, “the others” 25 percent. Churchill pushed this half sheet across the table to Stalin, who glanced at it, added a large blue tick, and passed the paper back across the table.

During the hours and days that followed, there was much general talk between the two men: about Greece and Yugoslavia, where Stalin agreed with Churchill that they should seek to prevent civil war between rival ideologies; about Italy, where the prime minister requested that Moscow should not “stir up Italian communists;” and about monarchs—Churchill said that nowhere would Britain seek to reenthrone a ruler against the will of the people. He made it plain that Britain would not support mass executions of defeated Nazis, though he hoped that as many as possible would be killed on the battlefield. He asserted his belief that no ideology should be imposed on small states, which must be free to decide their own destinies. Meanwhile, Eden haggled with Molotov about details of the percentages agreement, with the Russian foreign minister demanding, for instance, 90 percent influence in Bulgaria.

On October 11, Churchill sought to resolve such matters in a long missive to Stalin which he drafted, then showed to Averell Harriman, now U.S. ambassador in Moscow. Harriman said that Roosevelt and Cordell Hull would certainly repudiate the letter, if it was sent. Instead, the prime minister telegraphed to the president, urging the importance of acting swiftly to prevent an eruption of civil wars in the Balkans. Already, Communist partisans in Albania had rejected the return of King Zog, exiled from the country since 1941.

Then Churchill’s delegation set forth for the British embassy, to host a dinner for Stalin and Molotov. There, Stalin told his host that it had not been policy, but military realities, which had prevented the Red Army from succouring the Warsaw Poles. The prime minister asked Lazar Kaganovich, the commissar for railways, how he made his nation’s transport trains run on time. When an engine driver failed in his duty, said Kaganovich with a wolfish grin … then he drew his hand across his throat. Churchill rarely displayed anxiety about his own safety, but in Moscow he was furious to discover that his plane was left overnight in the hands of Russian guards. He insisted that thereafter a member of its RAF crew must remain aboard the aircraft around the clock. It is hard to suggest that this represented paranoia.

As always at these meetings, talking continued into the small hours. The Russian mood seemed unreservedly benign. Churchill cabled to Roosevelt about “an extraordinary atmosphere of goodwill.” To Clementine, he wrote on October 13: “The affairs go well987. We have settled a lot of things about the Balkans & prevented hosts of squabbles that were maturing. The two sets of Poles have arrived & are being kept for the night in separate cages … I have had v[er]y nice talks with the Old Bear. I like him the more I see him. Now they respect us here & I am sure they wish to work with us. I have to keep the President in constant touch & this is the delicate side.”

In almost all of this Churchill was mistaken. Unaccustomed Russian civility, even warmth, was inspired by a new self-confidence, born of battlefield triumph. Virtually none of the assurances Stalin offered had substance. He had no intention of honouring them. What he wanted in the Balkans, he would take. Stalin could always raise a laugh from his obeisant courtiers by saying, as he often did: “We fucked this England!”988 The prime minister could claim only one success which proved enduring: Greece. Stalin recognised the strength of British sentiment about the country, together with the reality of Western Allied dominance of its airspace and surrounding seas. All the rest of the Balkans was within the Soviets’ grasp. Though strife lay ahead in Greece, the Russians made no attempt to promote Communist victory. Thus far, and thus far only, Churchill may have accomplished something useful in Moscow.

His most notable failure was the attempt to save Poland. He summoned from London a Polish exile delegation, led by Prime Minister Mikolajczyk, who attended under threat from Churchill. Days of icy roundtable discussion followed, with the Russians half amused and half embarrassed by the slavish puppet show put on by their own “Lublin Poles.” Churchill wrote to the king from Moscow, “Our lot from London are, as Your Majesty knows989, a decent but feeble lot of fools, but the delegates from Lublin seem to be the greatest villains imaginable.” Between sessions, Churchill made desperate efforts to induce the London Poles to accept the proposed new frontiers for their country, which would cede territory to Russia in exchange for land carved from eastern Germany. Blandishments and threats alike failed to move Mikolajczyk and his colleagues, who remained obdurate. Stalin dismissed a compromise proposal advanced by the British. When the Polish leader returned to London and put the final Soviet offer to his colleagues, it was decisively rejected. He then resigned as prime minister. Churchill found himself accepting commiserations from Stalin, because “his” Poles had rejected a deal. It was apparent that, in these circumstances, Moscow’s appointees would rule the country.

It would have suited Stalin to gain Mikolajczyk’s acquiescence both in the new borders and in accepting a marginal role in the new government. But, since there was no possibility that non-Communists would be granted real influence, far less power, the London Poles lost nothing and preserved their honour by rejecting Stalin’s proposals. Churchill, however, was left to nurse despondency and failure. He thought the Poles almost demented in their refusal to make terms with Moscow. When General Anders, Polish corps commander in Italy, expressed hopes that the Allies would free Poland by force once Germany was beaten, Churchill said despairingly: “This is crazy. You cannot defeat the Russians.” In his perception, Mikolajczyk’s stubbornness had handed his country to Stalin. “The Poles’ game is up,”990 he said tersely to Moran. Better, he thought, to accept a Russian mess of pottage than nothing at all.

Posterity should surely be moved in recognising that Churchill cared so much about Poland, where Britain had no selfish interest whatever. He waged a long, thankless struggle on behalf of the nation which had become the victim of Nazi aggression at the outbreak of the Second World War. It seemed to him unbearably tragic that impending Allied victory should merely offer a new servitude to the people on whose behalf Britain had declared war on Germany. Yet this was the case, and would have been so even had Roosevelt entered the lists in support of Churchill. The Russians were on the Vistula, while the Anglo-Americans were not yet at the Rhine. “Far quicker than the British991 and also the Americans,” Sir William Deakin has written, “the Russians grasped the inner logic of the situation, namely that at the final victory the fate of the occupied countries of Europe … would be decided neither by the Resistance leaders themselves on the spot nor their representatives … in London and Moscow, but along a frontier between the armies of the Western Allies on the one hand and the Russians on the other.”

The Moscow visit ended with the usual round of banquets. Churchill told Stalin that he favoured some grouping of Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia after the war, which the Russian leader cared for not at all. Stalin surprised Churchill by expressing a passionate hatred for Switzerland. But the Russians displayed no hostility to the British, as they had so often done in the past. On the contrary, Churchill and Stalin talked with freedom and, on the Russian side, unembarrassed mendacity. On October 18, Churchill addressed a press conference at the British embassy. The next morning, Stalin not only came to the airfield in the rain to see the prime minister off, but condescended to inspect the interior of his York aircraft. The two men parted with every evidence of cordiality. On the afternoon of October 22, Churchill landed back in Britain.

The world was allowed to suppose that his Moscow visit was merely a routine meeting of allies. It inspired in Churchill a brief surge of illusion, that he had forged an understanding with Stalin which might yield fruits such as he had failed to harvest from Roosevelt. The U.S. president, by contrast, was irked. He was in no doubt about Churchill’s purpose. Britain’s prime minister was attempting to achieve what the United States was absolutely committed to resist: the creation of spheres of influence in postwar Europe and the Balkans. The divide between British and American policy had never been greater since December 1941.

For all their public expressions of mutual regard, it is hard to suppose that, by this time, Churchill or Roosevelt cherished much private affection for each other. Their objectives were too far apart. The president’s world vision was more enlightened than that of the old imperialist prime minister, yet even less realistic. He pinned his faith for the future upon the new United Nations organisation, the rise of Chiang Kai-shek’s China, and a working partnership between America and the Soviet Union. His motives were exalted. Churchill’s impassioned commitment to freedom excluded the world’s black and brown races, as that of the president did not—though he shocked his own staff by domestic references to “the nigger vote.” But, while Churchill had a quixotic strand of personal humility intermixed with his vanity, Roosevelt had none. His faith in his own power, as well as that of his nation, was unbounded. His unwillingness to acknowledge his own mortality, which was even more pressing than that of men threatened by death on the war’s battlefields, was a grievous omission in the last months of his presidency. He might at least have ensured, as he did not, that Vice President Harry Truman was admitted to the secrets of the Grand Alliance.

It seems mistaken to be surprised, however, by Washington’s cavalier treatment of both Britain and its prime minister. Beyond the new hubris of the United States, on many matters of strategy and policy the British had displayed poor judgement in 1944. They were wrong about Overlord, about Italy both militarily and politically, and were dilatory and confused about the Japanese war. On the battlefield their soldiers performed adequately rather than impressively. Churchill allowed himself to be distracted into pursuit of self-indulgent whims, such as a proposal that some aged British naval guns mounted at Dover should be shipped to the Continent to aid Eisenhower’s campaign. British attempts to ignore their own impoverishment and retain a giant’s role in the world inspired pity among their American friends, contempt among their American enemies. Churchill told Smuts: “You must remember … that our armies992 are only about one-half the size of the Americans and will soon be little more than one third … It is not as easy as it used to be for me to get things done.” Churchill often asserted that, far from owing a huge cash debt to the United States when the war was over, Britain should be recognised as a creditor, for its lone defence of freedom in 1940–41. This was never plausible. When the war ended, the world would assess Britain’s rightful place by reading its bank statement. Informed British people recognised this, and feared accordingly.

On October 27, Churchill reported to the Commons on his visit to Moscow. He now commanded an affection among MPs which transcended partisan loyalties. “How much depends on this man993 nowadays,” wrote Tory MP Cuthbert Headlam, for so long a sceptic. “Without Winston’s prestige and personality, where should we be with Roosevelt and Stalin? They are tiresome enough as things are—but how could Anthony Eden, or Attlee, stand up to them? No—I have never been a Winstonian, but I do realize that today if a man ever be indispensable, Winston is that man.”

When Attlee told MPs that Churchill was again in Moscow, Labour members were seen shaking their heads in mingled admiration and sympathy, saying: “He oughtn’t to do it994. Poor old boy, he really oughtn’t to do it.” There was a readiness to indulge him, almost unique in parliamentary experience: “He is not of course995 as vigorous or pugnacious as in 1940,” wrote Harold Nicolson. “But he has no need to be. He is right to take the more sober tone of the elder statesman.” Conservatives who had spurned Churchill in 1940 recognised him in 1944 as offering the only political hope for their party, which was profoundly unpopular in the country. The old ruling class perceived that the electorate yearned for its dispossession, as soon as ballot papers were offered to them at a general election. In Nicolson’s words: “The upper classes feel that all this sacrifice996 and suffering will only mean that the proletariat will deprive them of all their comforts and influence, and then proceed to render this country and Empire a third-class State.” Yet the prime minister himself was far from immune from the effects of public alienation. Nicolson was shocked one day to notice scrawled graffiti in a station lavatory: “Winston Churchill is a bastard.”997 When he remarked upon it to an RAF officer standing beside him, the airman shrugged, saying, “Yes. The tide has turned. We find it everywhere.”

“But how foul. How bloody foul!”

“Well, you see, if I may say so, the men hate politicians.”

“Winston a politician! Good God!”

On October 27, the prime minister delivered a brilliant speech about his experiences in Moscow. Then he adjourned to the smoking room, and addressed the barman: “Collins, I should like a whisky and soda998—single.” After sitting down for a moment, he struggled out of his armchair and returned to the bar. “Collins, delete the word ‘single’ and insert the word ‘double.’” “Then,” in the words of an MP, “grinning at us like a schoolboy, he resumed his seat.” Here was another of those impish miniatures which help to explain why love for Churchill ran so strong among most of those who worked with him. For all Alan Brooke’s exasperation with his master at this time, he wrote fondly of a scene that winter, as the two men visited the snowbound French battlefront in the Vosges. The prime minister arrived for lunch with de Gaulle “completely frozen999, and almost rolled up on himself like a hedgehog. He was placed in a chair with a hot water bottle at his feet and one in the back of his chair. At the same time good brandy was poured down his throat to warm him internally. The results were wonderful, he thawed out rapidly and when the time came produced one of those indescribably funny French speeches which brought the house down.”

But the British people had by now hardened their hearts towards their rulers, even the greatest. Many felt less gratitude to those presiding over victory in the most terrible conflict in history than implacable resentment against the politicians whom they held responsible for getting them into it in the first place. Even if Churchill had not himself been among the guilty men of the 1930s, he was now their political standard-bearer. And for all his giant stature as Britain’s war leader, millions of voters sensed that his interest in the humdrum domestic troubles of peace was perfunctory. An anonymous officer of the Second Army, fighting in Holland, wrote in the Spectator about the mood of the British soldier under his command: “[He] is fighting for the future of the world1000 and does not believe in that future … He asks a lot of the future, but he doesn’t expect to get any of it.” The writer perceived his men as chronically mistrustful of all authority, institutions and politicians, but Tories most of all: “It is, perhaps, encouraging that Tommy, 1944, will not be foozled by facile talk of a land fit for heroes. He wants deeds, not words.” Few among such men perceived Winston Churchill as the national leader likely to fulfil such hopes once victory came.

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