“I could never have succeeded without her!”
Winston S. Churchill
We all know the expression, ‘pride cometh before a fall,’ but even in our modern-age where women have thankfully expanded their horizons beyond that of a housewife, some men would feel intimidated or be laughed at if, in the face of injustice, their wife came sharply to their defense. Winston Churchill most-definitely had an ego-driven pride, and in his youth was often accused of arrogance, but wisely he refused to allow this early trait to get in the way of good sense. Always encouraged by kindness from whatever quarter, Churchill welcomed the active input and positive interference of his mother Jennie, and later Clementine.
In 1915, Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, became the scapegoat for the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign, designed to break the deadlock of the First World War, and force Turkey out of the war. Though he backed the plan, and it was certainly a sound idea, it was the failures of others that cost the lives of so many. Prime Minister Asquith, lost the majority support of Parliament and was forced to seek a coalition with the Conservative opposition, but the price was the head of Winston Churchill. Betrayed by his Liberal colleagues, his Prime Minister and apparent friend Lloyd-George, Churchill was unceremoniously dismissed from the Admiralty, and reluctantly accepted a much lesser position with no say in the course of a war he believed he still had much to contribute to. Both furious and devastated, Clementine Churchill penned a warning to Asquith, pointing out that ‘Winston may in your eyes & in those with whom he has to work have faults, but he has a supreme quality which I venture to say very few of your present or future Cabinet possess…If you throw Winston overboard, you will be committing an act of weakness and your Coalition Government will not be as formidable a War machine as the present Government.’ Sadly Asquith ignored the warning and Clementine discovered later that her heartfelt letter became the butt of party jokes, often read ‘aloud at the luncheon table, with amused relish.’
Although history does not record whether Churchill was aware of the letter or its contents before Clementine sent it, Asquith and his entourage were perfectly willing to claim he did. However, whether correct or not, Clementine was proved right in her warning, and the Coalition Government did suffer. Churchill deeply hurt, dejected and depressed, requested a posting to the French Front, where he served bravely alongside many who were doomed to never return to England.
There were definitely two great rays of sun that shone from this disaster, the first was the unequivocal demonstration of Clementine’s love and devotion to Winston, but the second, of equal importance, was that Churchill got to see firsthand, the devastation of trench warfare, and as a result avoided it at all costs during the Second World War.
NEXT WEEK: June 1940, the newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill begins to feel the pressure of his office and the failing defence of Britain and Europe against Hitler and his gang of gutter-snipes. Together we will be taking a look at how Clementine supported Churchill at a time when our country most needed him at his best.
CLEMENTINE CHURCHILL: The Voice of Reason
I hope you will forgive me if I tell you something
that I feel you ought to know…
LANGWORTH, Richard: Churchill By Himself
SOAMES, Lady Mary: Speaking for Themselves