Churchill and the Prof
- By THE CHURCHILL PROJECT
- | May 6, 2015
- Category: Q & A
In reviewing the 1940-45 visitors books at Chequers, I was struck by how often Professor Frederick Lindemann was there—far more than anyone except Churchill family and staff, more than Bracken and Beaverbrook, let alone the Chiefs of Staff. Lindemann practically lived there and was present whenever Churchill was. What do you make of him and what’s best to read on him?
After the death of the F.E. Smith, the first Lord Birkenhead, Frederick Lindemann (1886-1957) was probably Churchill’s closest friend. His signature is also the most frequent in the visitors book at Chartwell, where it appears 86 times, more than anyone else (Brendan Bracken only 31, although visitors usually signed only when staying overnight, and Bracken frequently returned to London). He was invaluable to Churchill in his ability to reduce complicated scientific principles and theories to brief layman terms everyone could understand.
Ardently pro-Churchill, Lindemann several times clashed with government scientific advisors. He wanted even more strategic bombing of Germany than “Bomber” Harris; he opposed the effective “Window” (Chaff) radar jamming technique; and he deemed Hitler’s V2 rockets impractical, until they began falling on London. On the other hand, he was one of the first to urge the importance of atom bomb research. An excellent article on his wartime role is Antoine Capet, “Scientific Weaponry: How Churchill Encouraged the ‘Boffins’ and Defied the ‘Blimps,'” The Churchillian, Spring 2013.
The “standard work” on Lindemann is still the second Lord Birkenhead’s The Prof in Two World Wars (London: Collins, 1961), aka The Professor and the Prime Minister (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962). A more recent biography is Adrian Fort, Prof: The Life of Frederick Lindemann (London: Jonathan Cape, 2003).
Thomas Wilson’s Churchill and the Prof (London: Cassell, 1995) focuses on the relationship in World War II, including Radar, the German Knickebein guidance system, strategic bombing, even the Battle of the Atlantic, including the comparatively neglected area of shipping to the Middle and Far East. Wilson also considers Lindemann’s many memos to Churchill on postwar recovery. Despite deep hostility to Germany, Lindemann never bought into the Morgenthau Plan of creating a “pastoral,” non-industrial Germany after the war.
Featured image: Professor Lindemann, Air Marshal Portal, Admiral Cunningham and Churchill watching an antiaircraft gunnery exhibition, June 1941.