[originally posted Dec7, 2008 (that can’t be right – Bunn?- I’m actually looking at the original date as I move this forward… are you shitting me? … could be. Man, we are getting old. stardate June 11, 2010]

[Post updated by JR, adding D’Este quote. Some kind of a winstonwiki we have going here, I guess.]

I feel like talking about Winston Churchill. So let’s kick things off with a link from The Churchill Centre.

“The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash.” — Churchill’s assistant, Anthony Montague-Browne said that although Churchill had not uttered these words, he wished he had.

JR, it would be great if you can find the time to put together a review of “Warlord – A Life of Winston Churchill at War” by Carlo D’Este. I know you just read it, or at least are well into it by now.

I made it about one third through “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory” by William Manchester. Wonderful book. I’d love to pick it up again some day (probably start over again from the beginning, actually), but in the short term that would constitute a breach of certain key provisions of my idling protocol, so there you have it. And a lazy lop is what it is.


Churchill’s romanticism was dangerously unabated despite the harsh examples of war he had personally experienced. More troubling, however, was his misguided confidence that he, unlike his comrades in arms, was somehow exempt from death before achieving great destiny.
      -D’Este, pg. 71

51 Replies to “Churchill”

  1. [from p. 162, Manchester’s volume 1]

    “… the autodidactic pattern was forming. Winston was being taught to teach himself. He would always be a dud in the classroom and a failure in examinations, but in his own time, in his own terms, he would become one of the most learned statesmen of the coming century.”

  2. William Manchester fought in the Pacific as a US Marine in WWII. He wrote a book about his and his buddies experiences then called “Goodbye, Darkness”. It’s a very good book, very nuanced (thanks, UR). Part of it is him telling us the “true” version of his experiences, and other parts are fabrications, and it’s hard to tell what is what, but it is a great tale. He admits he wrote it this way. Those guys that lived to tell us about it, either orally or in writing, were always a bit bent by the experience, The result is a mix of truth and fiction like in this fine book.

  3. Humidor to Holmes, wake the fuck up!

    (You’re about due to burn one, son, don’t deny it.)

    If you and other free time-challenged monkeys want to read a cigar-centric (and entertainingly so) and breezy article about Winston Churchill, I’ve got your BB-Ticket right here…,2540,5,00.html

    “[A]fter unsuccessfully appealing his capture [by the Boers] on the grounds that he was a noncombatant, Churchill escaped from prison. Before escaping, however, he left a letter of apology on his bed to Louis de Souza, the Boer secretary for war. The letter began: “I have the honour to inform you that as I do not consider that your Government have any right to detain me as a military prisoner, I have decided to escape from your custody.” It ended: “Regretting that I am unable to bid you a more ceremonious or a personal farewell, I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant, Winston Churchill.”

  4. I’m ashamed to say I’m only up to about page 80. Excellent book, so far. Quite an amazing life. Was completely abused and had the shit beat out of him everyday when he was 8 at boarding school.

    I think where I’m at know, he’s 24 in India trying to scam his way into combat, it’s like 1898. What I’m trying to figure out is how he goes from being a playboy living beyond his means and only a lieutenant in the cavalry, which at that time was oddly not considered as prestigious as the infantry – to being Lord of the Admiralty 10 years later. But , of course, I don’t have to figure it out, because that’s the next two or three chapters.

    “Goodbye Darkness” is excellent. I’ve read “American Caesar” about MacArthur, but my favorite by Manchester is “The Arms of Krupp,” now there is an epic story. Some gutsy filmaker like Spielberg should consider that for a 10-part miniseries on HBO.

  5. I saw an illustrated book once called something like “The House of Krupp”. That is an amazing story, and makes one wonder about the rules of war and of our global society of nations.

  6. Yeah, this really is a great book. I just got home about a half hour ago. I was on page 66. It has taken me that long to get through 4 pages. 2000 words. You know me, I usually do 1000 words in about a minute. 10 seconds if it is just news.

    I forget what a great writer D’Este is and how he understands exactly how to write paragraphs and order them.

    It doesn’t help that Churchill is experiencing his first combat in what we would commonly refer to today as Tora Bora. And believe me, he was more in the shit than your average lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division. Just Sayin. No disrespect to 10th Mountain. And if Asoka opens his yap one more time about US Marines, I might have to come back there and kick some ass. Tell him to shut the fuck up and pay more attention to Ford. That goes for Bob Snowjob, too.

  7. “meditations on violence”, rory miller. nice little book on contemporary street violence, as it exists in america today.

    of course all bets are off for tomorrow.

  8. If it seems as if I don’t care, you have to understand that that’s just part of the story. I can’t respond to everything. What I mean is that I could, but it’s not a place where I want to be. So, dear readers, please understand that no one here is ever ignored, rather a communication in the form of silence, or in the form of a prima facia lack of response, is sometimes deployed. Normally, no one would care enough to take the time to explain this sort of stuff, but either way monkeys still get needlessly weirded out, so that’s why normally such things are never explained by those in the know. Time for the morning pellet dropping constitutional… ciao

  9. ya, differnt perspectives, avoid the freeze, keep the mind moving, don’t get fixated, all good stuff.

    the one biggest thing that i got out of miller’s book, was the idea of thinking it through ahead of time. in other words, mentally placing yourself in different situations and deciding, beforehand, at what point within that situation you will become violent.

    as far as feeling, as opposed to seeing, to this day i practice infighting while blindfolded. very good practice, i think.

  10. violence is fact, that often, seemingly, comes out of nowhere. many people end up being freaked out by acts of violence. i’d be stupid to think that this is completely avoidable. but better to at least think about it, i guess.

  11. i watched a video a while back, can’t find it now. but 3 guys were in the foyer opening the door to thier apaertment building. suddenly another guy steps into the frame with a gun and trys to rob them. so the 3 guys jump the gun man. one of the 3 gets shot and the gunman runs away.

  12. ya know, nobody wants to admit that their government lies to them all the time, but it does.

    is it still OK to try to work within a system that you know will utterly fail you sometime soon? i mean, a man’s gotta eat, right?

  13. Doom, this government lying to you thing… I think it’s called “opinion shaping” these days.

    As for working within a system… well, at least you’ll be able to say “I knew this was coming for years,” for all the nothing that that will be worth. It’s kinda like the way I (and many others) saw the financial crisis coming ages ago, but failed to properly connect this eventuality to other bets (oil and other commodities, namely) that I had placed (and, alas, didn’t extricate myself from in a timely way). It seems a long shot, but if this oil collapse boomerangs back around within the next half year to a year, I might still be able to salvage the situation somewhat. But I’ve already accepted complete loss as a possible (highly likely) outcome. So be it, if that is the way it is to be. I’ve moved past the burning wreckage. (As dave says, you place your bets and you takes your chances.) And I’m sure that I’ll place more bets before this game is done. Coz that’s what reckless monkeys do.

    As to the entire system coming down, I used to think that it would unravel differently in different places, at different times, etc. Now I might only suggest that in the near-term there are few good bets, and none that seem certain to pay.

    The Marines are easily making their recruiting quotas these days, I hear.

  14. The Kool-Aid never tastes as good coming back up, does it? And stay the hell away from that clusterplace!

    If you pull out of this tail-spin, I’ll finally agree that you are the luckiest motherfucker on the planet.


  15. Dave, your comments (above) make me think how no one knows how they are programmed at the primal level until they are placed in a primal situation, and then maybe they might know something of themself if they are able to reflect on it afterwards. In those situations, as stories are told, it can be surprising what we are made of, for better or worse. Well maybe the pathological types don’t give it a thought, but most normal people are intensely curious of their deep down primal potential (hence the intense psychological grappling with peak oil’s nasty parts?). Anyway, once I was lost in the woods, it was getting dark and cold, and I totally panicked, and I made some bad decisions. Like I just started running. I survived by accident. Afterwards I was ashamed, and I was surprised at my lack of cool under the pressure of that situation. When that sudden rush of adrenaline comes, it can be completely overwhelming, to the point that you just go autopilot. On the other hand… I lived and worked in Venezuela for a couple years, and during that time there were a couple instances when I found myself in very dangerous situations. In those cases I set about extracting myself with deliberate and calm action. In one case I saw someone else literally faint from fear and collapse to the ground. And it can be tempting in traumatic situations to just freeze or go with the crowd. It can be a tough call. For me, in those particular VZ incidents, the adrenaline seemed to boost my senses and awareness, and autopilot cognitive processes (for weighing options, risks, consequences, plans B and C) became not only razor sharp but super fast. Like a damned cottontail rabbit. However, it was in reflecting on this later that I felt the fear I did not acknowledge then, which has given me something to think about every once in a while. You think you know yourself. Jeeesh. And regardless of what can be gathered in self appraisal, as they say, past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

  16. “is it still OK to try to work within a system that you know will utterly fail you sometime soon? i mean, a man’s gotta eat, right?”

    Absolutely! Unless your job is selling time-share condos, or installing DVD players in Escalades.

    “She could be hangin round the steel mill,
    Working in a house of blue lights.
    Riding a getaway bus out of portland, talking to the night.
    I dont know where shes going, I dont care where shes been,
    Long as shes doin it right. long as shes doin it right”

    – Workingmans Dead

  17. SB, I had a confrontation with a local fisherman on a beach on SW Molokai many moons ago. He was “getting very real” with me. My response was to get very real back to him. He was strong, wiley and probably had a knife on him and most assuredly knew how to use it. It was a philosophical understanding about life, over a campfire after dinner and beers on the beach, and I just stared him down. I was fearless because when I was 20, I almost died in an industrial accident. This was only a few years later, but even then I felt I was living on “bonus time”. You never look away, always maintain eye contact and remain calm. I knew what was at stake.

  18. ya, tough to say. the panic run served your ancestors well, i’m sure. so it’s nothing to be ashamed of in and of itself.

    if you brake into a panic everytime you get lost in the woods, and you keep getting lost in the woods, then you got a problem.

  19. at one point in my life(late 1980’s) i was shipping cars and trucks down to vz. at another point my vz partner sold off our inventory and stopped returning my calls. another write off, not to the irs though.

    it was all kind of a “scam”, not sure if that’s the right word, but it’ll do. anyhoo, to avoid tariffs, import duties, we would pay people to take delivery of various vehicles and say that they were for thier own use. then we would resell the vehicles. worked pretty good for a while.

  20. import tariffs were around 100% at the time. plus there was a huge demand. the people just couldn’t get enough ford explorers. so we had good margins.

  21. anyhoo, at some point the body has to be allowed(is that the right word?) kick in. if you can kinda plan for that point beforehand, even in a general sense, you’re one step ahead of the game. i guess.

  22. Hahahahaha .. “just couldn’t get enough Ford Explorers” .. now there’s a humorous memory to cherish forever. Before they rust down to nothingness, this will be the preferred backyard storage shed after the next iteration of high gasoline prices. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a $6 peak next time. Even this sub-$1.50 gasoline isn’t making anyone more willing to buy large gas-guzzling SUVs.

  23. I am sure there are many, but I found this to be great.

    Dear Tom:

    …The best patrolling troops we have come across are the Moroccan Goums, whose success as compared with any European unit is phenomenal. Even against the best of the Germans, they never fail. Why are they better than we are? First, because they are wild hillmen and have been trained as warriors from birth. Second, because the preparation of their patrols is done with such detailed thoroughness…

  24. A couple of years ago, a 6’4 260 lb fucker started backing me into a corner. I let him push me. No words, no cries. He started to strangle me. I remembered that my body had about a minute of anaerobic energy, even if I couldn’t breathe. Calm came over me. My mind started to think, without me knowing it. I head butted him in the sternum. I had never done it before, never saw it done before, but I just knew to do it. It made him fall back , but he managed to grab me again. The adrenaline was so great that I managed to unwind myself from his lock by dislocating my arm. Then I ran.

  25. well i’m glad you got away with minimal damage. you were “lucky” that he was alone.

    i guess that the only reason i even bring this subject up is that many people kind of forget about, become inured too, the background violence. it becomes part of the air we breath. it exists, and always has existed, in all societies and cultures, from the hunter gatherors and on(not that i think that we are any more advanced, in any sense of of the word, than hg’s. we just have an adapted social structure and technologies. the archdruid had a good post on this last week.)

    kind of a tautology, but as the opportunities for violence increase, opportunistic violence will also. organized, state, even large group sponsored violence, will be much less of a problem.

  26. nomouth, dave, Bif, Doom, et al., excellent discussion. I’ve never feared for my life at the hands of another human; it seems I’ve had more close encounters with animals and machinery. In hindsight, maybe I had not properly assessed the death-dealing potential of those that I’ve faced and had confrontations with over the years. That said, I tend (for better or worse) to try to avoid confrontations. I agree, anticipating and preparing for moves (physical or verbal) that your adversary might make seems sometimes to yield more satisfying results. In an extremely adversarial circumstance where I should have been beaten to death, I presented a completely fearless, even belligerent demeanor — incredulously, it worked! To be perfectly honest, I figured that I was completely fucked and that I might as well get the asswhipping/suicide over with and go down with a small shred of dignity. I walked away without a scratch. Pure luck.

  27. page 151 and the top of 152 simply floored me. I was blown away. I thought I had seen or read everything. It was almost too much too take. It was. I had to drop the book and run to the computer to write about it. Oh my.

    Sometimes I wish other ‘regular’ people like Bob Snowjob and this new guy, Ryan Crocker, could find solace and merit and gain in readin.’

    I’d be happy if they would read.

    But sadly, I always find myself alone with people who read. Except we’re always reading a different book.

    (Truth be told, I’d be happy with someone that could stand the same TV as me, that’s why I love Mary (and I do have a review of MTV and VH1’s latest escapades coming up) (they’ll be coming up quicker than dissertations on T-34 vs later generation Panthers ( but what ever happened to Gordeax? did he just decide I was a nut and bail? Fucking smart.)

    Mary – “Secret Millionaire” debuts on FOX Wednesday Night. I am all over this. I’m Johnny on the Spot.

    Oh. I’m ready

  28. JR

    The Secret Millionaire sounds interesting – I’m amazed they’d have something like that. We get FOX news here between midnight and 6 am on the free to air channel but BBC runs at the same time so the remote is almost permanently rusted on that channel –just as well I can’t afford 24 hour BBC on cable or I’d never get anything done.

    I’ve seen some amazing things on BBC such as the series ‘The Barbarians’ which looked at four ancient cultures, the Romans being one, where they held themselves out as being the last word in civilised but treated their own citizens worse than their vassals – I loved the series ‘Rome’ as well.

    A series called ‘The War’ about American servicemen and their families during WWII is screening at the moment. One particular program I remembered was the piece on the B17 bomber that was known as the Fortress on Wings, if memory serves, but later proved in some ways to be rather unwieldy for the pilots – just enough information for someone not well versed in all the weapons stuff. The turret gunner recalled the intense fear and discomfort of his position, and said that once when he was hit the freezing temperatures stopped his bleeding and allowed him to remove the blood from the turret glass easily before the plane landed again. The gunner also said that he avoided friendships with fellow airmen because they might be there one day and dead the next. My appetite for war information was whet as a youngster when I saw a series on WWII called ‘The World at War’ narrated by Laurence Olivier.

    On the reading front I’ve just finished WMBH which was an easy read but felt the women were maybe a little too subservient, if capable. I don’t like the thought of feudalism emerging again in the world and people’s lives being decided by potential brutes, particularly women’s lives. If developed nations are to be like WMBH by 2021 some heavy shit awaits us.

  29. ‘The War’ is really good. It’s by what’s his name. The guy that does all those documentaries.

    ‘The World at War’ is the classic, of course. I should watch that again for the fourth time.

    I downloaded the whole thing about 5 years ago. If only I could find the discs. Sometimes I forget I’m a digital pirate.

    I’m not a big fan of WMBH. I kinda wish it was longer, and the whole Mamma Queen Bee thing at the end threw me off.

    I thought McCarthy’s “The Road” was better.

    Early in the history of this blog, some of us were reviewing WMBH. I’ll see if I can find those.

  30. @Doom

    A possible explanation as to the reason(s) for BHO returning the bust of Winston Churchill (old news, of course) might be found in this article.

    [An excerpt]
    “Churchill has less happy connotations for Mr Obama than those American politicians who celebrate his wartime leadership. It was during Churchill’s second premiership that Britain suppressed Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion. Among Kenyans allegedly tortured by the colonial regime included one Hussein Onyango Obama, the President’s grandfather.”

    Doom, I can’t speak to FDR’s possible relevance here, but I think the following quote is representative of my overall perception of the situation.

    “Perhaps Mr. Obama will ask Her Majesty’s Government for a bust of Neville Chamberlain to adorn the Oval Office?”

  31. Yes, that was indeed a slap to the Brits and their man Churchill. My guess is it’s the Kenya connection, pure and simple. Blood lines make great grudge lines.

    That Chamberlain remark is on target, right up to and including the oil spill. BHO’s political future is likely toast at this point, over his strict adherence to BAU at all costs, but some costs are too much to bear. It’s them oily birds that were the last of a thousand cuts.

    And good riddance, too. I voted for him, but regret it in many ways now. Many of us were giving him the benefit of the doubt. Well, the doubting time is over, and we can clearly see he is the Chicago pol hack that we hoped he was not.

  32. Wow, interesting this dis of Churchill legacy. Lord knows my bust won’t be welcome in everyone’s living room either, regardless of my (in my opinion) overwhelming proportion of good deeds compared to indescretions, most of which I sincerely regret, whatever they were. I wish I knew this bust was up for grabs as it would have been a perfect addition for my yard sculpture arrangement(s). A nice thing about yard sculpture is that the weeds grow up around them and give them character, which reduces the need to control vegetation (saving both time and chemical cost). I like to imagine my place someday having the look of ancient ruins, but I digress.

    Last nights game wasn’t pretty but I’ll take it. Could have done without the slo mo replays of a drooling Big Baby though. And these refs! My God!

  33. dave, do you think the Brits are going to send BHO a lawn jockey to replace the bust of Churchill that he sent back?

  34. UR by FZ

    I’ll take a drive to BEVERLY HILLS
    Just before dawn
    An’ knock the little jockeys
    Off the rich people’s lawn
    An’ before they get up
    I’ll be gone, I’ll be gone
    Before they get up
    I’ll be knocking the jockeys off the lawn
    Down in the dew

  35. dave, do you think the Brits are going to send BHO a lawn jockey to replace the bust of Churchill that he sent back?

    that’s a statue of bho’s grandfather that the brits have hidden away. the brits are gonna return it as part of the deepwater horizon settlement. there’s been a place of honor selected for it on the white house lawn.

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