In this week’s Daily Telegraph, Boris describes how Churchill also worked for the Telegraph and how that helped him win the war.
“When the Daily Telegraph celebrated its 100th birthday in 1955, the newspaper received a message of congratulation from Winston Churchill pointing out that he was the oldest and longest-serving member of the paper’s staff. He was quite right. It was a relationship that had begun in 1897, when he went off with Sir Bindon Blood to serve and observe the forces of the British Empire.
He sent back several gut-wrenching accounts of the fighting, vividly describing the frenzy of the Pashtun tribesmen in what is now the badlands of Pakistan, and the awful carnage wreaked by the British machine-guns.
Churchill’s byline was “a young officer”, and he was paid £5 per piece. He was initially disappointed not to be properly credited with the articles – but enough people knew the truth (thanks partly to his mother; she probably slept with the extravagantly moustachioed Bindon Blood to get her boy the job), and his reputation started to grow.
So did his relationship with the great Conservative paper. And it is entirely fitting that in 2015 – the 50th anniversary of his death – the Daily Telegraph is publishing a selection of his journalism, together with contemporary reports about the great man, in a new book, “Churchill and the Daily Telegraph”, edited by Churchill academic, Dr Warren Dockter.
Because it was the Daily Telegraph that had the immeasurable moral distinction, in the 1930s, of sticking with Churchill – and publishing his views on Germany – even when they were unfashionable, and when other London newspapers were either refusing his copy or actively promoting appeasement of Hitler.
It was the Telegraph that published his denunciations of Nazism right up until the outbreak of war, and it was Viscount Camrose of the Daily Telegraph who was indispensable to the solution of Churchill’s financial problems, setting up the trust that enabled him to continue to live at his beloved Chartwell.
Winston Churchill owed a huge amount to the Telegraph – and the world owes an incalculable debt to that journalistic relationship. Why did Winston Churchill see so clearly the peril of Nazi Germany? Why was he almost alone, for so long, in his warnings? It was at least partly because he had actually been out to Germany, in the early 1930s. He had seen the spooky marches of the blond-headed young men and women, the black and red swastika bunting in the streets. Indeed, he tried (though thankfully failed) to secure an interview with Hitler
It was the same instinct that took him to Cuba, to Malakand, to the Sudan, to the Boer War and to the trenches – the same urge that made him try to join the fleet at D-Day. It wasn’t just a quest for military glory; it was a lust to see for himself, to clarify his thoughts by his own observation, and to articulate what was going on with his own extraordinary gifts of expression.
He was, in other words, a superb reporter; and it was Churchill the reporter who enabled Churchill the statesman to get it right about Hitler. The Daily Telegraph can claim a significant and honourable role in helping to launch that career, and in supporting him at an absolutely critical juncture. It was a symbiosis that should come as no surprise, when you consider that Churchill and the Telegraph shared much in their political character – romantic, imperialist, fervently pro-British, but basically soft-hearted and with a sympathy for the underdog.
CHURCHILL ON… conflict at the Indian frontier: from his first article for the Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph, 6 October 1897
As the correspondent approaches the theatre of war, he will naturally endeavour to observe every sign along the line of communications which indicates an unusual state of affairs.
The first incident that suggested the great mobilisation on the frontier happened as I was leaving Bangalore. The 6th Madras Infantry were going to the front. It was a striking and, in some ways, a moving spectacle. The Madras Army is a very much-married army. Women of every age and class hung, weeping, to the departing soldiers, their husbands or sons, who were going to some distant and mysterious danger, perhaps never to return.
At the station I was confronted by a fact which brings home with striking force the size of the Indian Empire. On asking the booking clerk – a sleek Babu – how far it was to Nowshera, he replied, with composure, that it was 2,027 miles. I rejoiced to think of the disgust with which a Little Englander would contemplate this fact. And then followed five weary days of train, the monotony of the journey only partially relieved by the changing scenes which the window presents.
CHURCHILL ON… France’s latest ineffectual new government
Daily Telegraph, 14 April 1938
If France broke, everything would break, and the Nazi domination of Europe, and potentially of a large part of the world, would seem to be inevitable.
It is therefore with keen and somewhat strained attention that all countries – especially friendly countries, great and small – have watched the prolonged deadlock in French Parliamentary affairs.
One stop-gap Government has succeeded another. The many interesting personalities involved, the intricate warfare of the various groups and parties, the vivid, indeed hectic, collective life of the Chamber provide all the elements of a most thrilling political game – if only this was the time to play one.
The deputies and the Chamber have, as anyone can see, a very jolly time. They are perpetually making and unmaking governments. Thirty or 40 distinguished and astonishingly able men take it in turns to be Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, Finance Minister, etc. They have a much more amusing time than their opposite numbers in Great Britain or the United States.
In both these English-speaking democracies, when a man’s in, he’s in; and when he’s out, he’s out for a good long time.
But the accomplished players at the French musical chairs monopolise with their own fads and prejudices, their own airs and graces, their own personal egotisms or party-isms, an altogether undue part of the life of France, and thus of the life of the free democracies.
What splendid attitudes they are able to take – and how often!
How they strut and pose! Here is a good man capable of giving the necessary directions, but if he moves one inch this way he loses the Left, or one inch that way and he loses the Right. Shuffle the cards again; shake the kaleidoscope; bring forth another highly competent personage and let him have a chance! Ministers of State pass through their departments like weekend guests at Le Touquet.
In England, we only have a Cabinet crisis once in a blue moon, and when it happens it is both serious and exciting. Its consequences last for years. But in Paris, cabinet-making is a perpetual sport.
CHURCHILL ON… how to stop a new war
Daily Telegraph, 30 December 1946
Eight years have passed since I wrote about “the United States of Europe”, and several things have happened meanwhile. I described the unhappy and dangerous plight of the Continent, torn by ancient quarrels, stirred by modern Nationalism, divided and hampered by a maze of tariff-walls, overshadowed by the Hitler–Mussolini Axis, exhausted and drained by one Great War, and oppressed by fear of another. Now here tonight in my same old room at Chartwell I am writing on the same subject, and I plead the same cause.
Eight years ago I thought the argument was unanswerable. But it proved utterly vain. Within 18 months Europe was plunged in a war more awful in its devastation than any ever waged by man, and – more than that – once more the European Quarrel dragged America from its isolation, once more it involved the whole world. It almost seems an evil omen.
Certainly the scene we survey in the autumn of 1946 bears many uncomfortable resemblances to that of 1938. Indeed, in some respects, it is even darker. The peoples of Europe have fallen immeasurably deeper into the pit of misery and confusion. Many of their cities are in ruins. Millions of their homes have been destroyed. They have torn each other into pieces with more ferocity on a larger scale and with more deadly weapons than ever before.
But have they found stable and lasting peace? Is the brotherhood of mankind any nearer? Has the reign of law returned? Alas, although the resources and vitality of nearly all the European countries are woefully diminished, many of their old hatreds burn on with undying flame. Skeletons with gleaming eyes and poisoned javelins glare at each other across the ashes and rubble-heaps of what was once the august Roman Empire and later a Christian civilisation.
Is there never to be an end?
CHURCHILL ON… winning the war but losing the 1945 election
Daily Telegraph, 21 April 1958
Entirely absorbed as I had been in the prosecution of the war and the situation at its victorious close, I did not understand what had taken place in the British Isles. Otherwise, I thought and still think I could have arranged things differently. Above all, the opinion in the mass of the Army, after so many signs of goodwill, was a great surprise to me.
The election results and figures were an even greater surprise to Europe and America, and indeed to the USSR. They naturally thought that the steadfastness of the British peoples, having survived the grim ordeals of 1940 and having come triumphantly through the five years’ struggle, would remain unshaken, and that there would be no change of Government.”
• ‘Winston Churchill at the Telegraph’, edited by Warren Dockter, is published by Aurum priced £16.99. To order your copy for £14 plus p&p, call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk. For more information about Churchill 2015, go to churchillcentral.com. For the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, or to make a bequest, go to wcmt.org.uk