Truths and Heresies
By CHRISTOPHER M. BELL and ROBIN BRODHURST
Churchill has long been criticized for the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse by Japanese aircraft three days after Pearl Harbor—and for failing to realize how vulnerable warships without fighter cover were to air attack. The Churchill Project asked two eminent military historians to consider these arguments. They conclude that the decision to sail those ships into harm’s way was that of their commander, and that Churchill, who acted at the advice of naval experts, was well aware of their vulnerability.
By ANDREW ROBERTS
The film “Churchill,” to be released in June, purports to tell the story of Winston Churchill’s life in the week running up to Operation Overlord, the attack on the Normandy beaches which began on D-Day, 6 June 1944. Well-acted with good photography and music, it attempts an insight into Churchill’s psychology at that crucial stage of the Second World War. The only problem with the movie—written by the historian Alex von Tunzelmann—is that it gets absolutely everything wrong. Never in the course of movie-making have so many specious errors been made in so long a film by so few writers.
By ANDREW ROBERTS
A recent film, Viceroy's House, narrates the story of the massacre in India following its independence and partition. While absolving the man most responsible—Louis Mountbatten—it charged Winston Churchill and his military secretary Hastings Ismay with the deaths of millions.
By RICHARD M. LANGWORTH
During the war, Britain had a fairly strict internment policy for incoming foreigners. Churchill certainly acknowledged the wisdom of carefully vetting incomers for enemy agents. However, Churchill quickly began to deplore the broad policy of interning refugees and foreigners, and firmly believed that no one should be imprisoned without just cause.
By THE CHURCHILL PROJECT
Beginning in the 1950s, reported UFO sightings were rampant in Great Britain. There was even a claim that Churchill ordered that one sighting be classified, in order to prevent mass hysteria in the public. This claim, unsubstantiated, is probably no more than a rumor.
By ANDREW ROBERTS
At the Jaipur Literary Festival in India, historian Andrew Roberts encountered a misconception that Winston had condoned sexual assault, at a panel discussion entitled 'Churchill: Hero or Villain?' The persistence of this misconception contributes to the post-truth history that surrounds Churchill.
By WINSTON S. CHURCHILL
The worldwide media was exercised over the surfacing of what was alleged to be an unpublished Churchill article, held by the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, in which our author contemplates the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The Museum, which received the typescript from the wife of Churchill’s literary agent Emery Reves, believed the manuscript to be a new discovery. As much as we’d be pleased to find new Churchill material, however, the “Aliens” article is not new. Whole passages mark it as a variant of Churchill’s essay, “Are There Men on the Moon?” published by London’s Sunday Dispatch on 8 March 1942. In 1975 it reappeared in volume form in The Collected Essays of Sir Winston Churchill.
By CHRISTOPHER M. BELL
Critics have argued that the Allied victory in the Atlantic was delayed by Churchill’s stubborn refusal to provide Coastal Command with aircraft capable of operating in the region known as the “Air Gap”—the waters south of Greenland in which convoys could not count on air support from either land-based or carrier-borne aircraft. The implication is that millions of tons of merchant shipping and thousands of lives might have been saved if Churchill had not prioritized the bomber offensive over the U-boat war. In this article, history professor Christopher M. Bell addresses whether or not Churchill was really responsible for this delay.