tv Andrew Roberts Churchill CSPAN November 25, 2018 3:34pm-4:31pm EST
good evening, ladies and gentlemen. welcome to the national churchill library center. my name is michael bishop thyme director of the lie area and the international directoff ochurchill society. which was founds 50 years ago and dedicated to preserving and promoting the historic legacy of winston churchill through publications and events, such ours our upcoming 35th 35th international churchill conference this weekend in colonial williamsburg. to learn more about churchill the society visit us online at winstonchurchill going going, the national church center is the part of a partnership between the university and society and over the last two years, we have welcomed many students and visitors and shared with them access to primary documents, books, and exhibits about winston churchill, including a painting by churchill which you can see over there. -we back to the library leaders
such as ambassador ron temperaturemer, david reuben stein, general death petraeus, former pakistani president, act gary oldman, distinguished historians and many more to discuss not only the particulars of churchill's life and career, but their application to our present day challenges. as churchill himself learned the longer outcome look back, the more you can look forward. let's turn to main event. tonight we learn but a figure utterly devoted to history who in this 30s wrote a admiring biography of a statesman chronicled the history of war roadside the end world. in his youth he wrote a single novel featuring a protagonist modeled every himself and engaged in a struggle against tyranny. a passionate -- his articles are
a on a host of subjects appeared in newspapers and magazines in britain and around the world, fur vent admirer of napoleon, a -- a -- her has truly made his mark on history. one of the reasons the many reasons that andrew roberts may be the person biographer of winston churchilles the above description applies equally to them both. in his -- >> i spoke of that coming up. >> we should read the novel. in his -- >> please don't. >> that's what churchill said about his. in miss memoirs of the second world war, churchill reflected on the moment when up malt power came to him in may 1940. i was conscious of a prow found sense of relief that at last i had the court to give directs over the whole scene. i felt as if i were walking with
destiny and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial. after decades of research, ceaseless travel in the great man's footsteps and the use of new sources it's brilliantler and indication of churchill's walk with destiny but that the new storeses that distinguish this work. rather the calm and around judgment that andrew applies to the countless dramas, triumphs, failures and controversies that marked churchill's nine decade life and six decade parliament we career. the book has been declared the best single volume life of churchill ever written bit both the sunday times and the sunday telegraph. and in the new issue of finest hour, the international churchill society's publication, reviewers hailed it as heroic by
agoography. andrew roberts has a ph.d from cambridge university. a visiting professor at the war studies depth of kings college, london, the layerman distinguished electric-under at the he new york historical society and author of 13 books, including churchillians, the storm of war, masters and commanders, and napoleon. a trustee of the margaret thatcher archive trust, the national portrait gallery, and most importantly, the international churchill society. ladies and gentlemen, itself is my great pleasure to introduce andrew roberts. >> there's something i might draw attention to. >> i mentioned in the introduction that you had used a
great many new sources and some might ask how you do possibly be in the sours after more than a thousand buy going -- biographs. >> there were 1,009 biographs of churchill and i included 11,000 tenth on the become. over the last decade an extraordinary cornucopia of new sources opened up. and the queen allowed me to the be thirst churchill buying a grapher to use her father's diaries and king george vi gave an interview to an audience, to churchill, every tuesday lunktime of the second world war and then wonderful by winston rote doug everything that churchill said so we have a huge amount of new information about his hopes and fears and gags every tuesday of the war. we also have 41 -- the relationship between the king
and churchill was fascinate, need not have been very successful at the beginning. could have gone wrong. churchill supported the king's elder brother during the abdication crisis and the cringe was in favor of the policy of appeasement to stop churchill from becoming prime minister. it could have gone wrong. instead it went magnificently right and very quickly the king was refer to churchill by his christian name, the first time -- the only william his four improvements he called by his christian name and they bill firm friend. he use friendship in the diaries. you have 41 set of paper the churchill college in cambridge since the big -- lat big biography of him. you have the diaries diaries ofe
soviet ambassador, 1942 to 1943 who churchill saw a lot of during the nazi soviet pact. the verbatim account of the war cabinet. those have been discovered in the last ten years, and also, there's another fascinating new -- trying to work out the best way to put the -- pam ha harriman's love letters and she -- i'm very conscious of the fact we're on tv -- led an active romantic life during the second world war, and so we have these love letters. she actually -- i was given exclusive access to them. she had love affairs with people all around churchill, who knew small wrote backwards and forwards to churchill. so you have these letter from people like jack whitney, the
admirer, the great broadcaster, of course, she married all the way through the time to churchill's son randolph, had a baby by him, but also you get love letters from bill paley and from admiral harriman himself, fdrs special envoy, and general kenneth anderson, and someone we just know as jerri. -- jerry. you put these together and there's something that new, that wouldn't have appeared, all of these new sources on every page of my book. >> you used these sources in your many, many years of experience researching churchill to take readers along with churchill on his walk with destiny but the sense of destiny was present in him from a very early age. can you tell us about that?
>> it's absolutely essential for understanding him. from the age of 16, winston churchill -- almost totally self-educated because he had to be because he went to -- [inaudible] -- he at the age of 16 and told a friend that they were going to be great struggles, huge upheavals in the world, that he was going to be called upon to save london and save the country and save the empire. and he said this at 16. and he believed it. and he acted out his life very much under that sense of self-belief, this sense of destiny, and as he went through life, especially as he survived incredibly large number of brushes with death, with close brushes with death, i could go through them but enormous number he believed the almighty, what
he called invisible wings flapping over him and protect him, and when you look into the role of the almighty in churchill's theology, it seems to mainly have been designed to take care of winston churchill. >> one of the most extraordinary things about churchill becoming prime minister in may 1940 was that he survived long enough to reach that office. you mentioned just a minute ago his various scrapes and near misses. can you tells more but that. >> okay, let's go through them. i'll try to keep them roughly chronnalol. born two emergencies premature, stabbed in the stomach when he was in prep school. age 1, very serious knew moanarch the closest he ever came to together and his doctors administered brandy to him, orally and rectally.
and you would have thought mat might put you off brandy for life but in his case it didn't. he had the survived a near drowning on lake geneva. a house fire. of course he fought in five wars on four continents. in the first world war he went into the trenches into no man's land 30 times which he didn't need to do as a battalion commander. got so close to the german trenches he could hear the germans speaking in them. it was -- verified two plane crashes, three car crashes, this year, the reason i brought this here, and -- is to show you this livid scar down the center of his forehead which came as a result of his car crash in fifth avenue in new york in december 1931. and it didn't stop with the war,
either. he -- when the war started he continued to take extraordinary risks. again and again, especially during the blitz, and he also had a minor heart attack when he was lifting a window at the white house in 1941, and also he got series of pneumonia litter on in his life and in carthage, he had a serious bout. husband doctor asked him to provide some blood, and churchill said i can give you some from my finger or from my ear. and i also have an almost infinite expansive ass. >> so we -- when the think of churchill most of is think but the fierce bulldog image on the cover. one thing you discovered in your research is that churchill was remarkably zachary mose, even when he healed the highest office. >> absolutely. >> he was a profoundly
passionate and emotional man. much more than i was expecting actually. but he was -- 60 times. must be very offputting to have your leader burst into tears. if teresa may burst into tear would be offputting but she had the rice to -- the right to. he was not a buttons up, upper lip aristocrat of the late victorian age into which he was born him was a throw break to an earlier era which he loved, the region sin aristocracy. people who wore their hearts on the sleeve very much more than victorians. >> on the subject of churchill's emotions we should dial with this perception on the part of many that churchill was depresssive or manic
depresssive. >> i don't believe that's the case at all. certainly not by -- the books -- he was -- got depressed undoubtedly, through the time of the catastrophe in the first world war which lid to kill ago wounding of 160,000 allied troupes which he entirely supported from the beginning through to the end. he got depresses at the time of the full of singapore in 1942 and these were times when anyone would have got conditioned and depression is a debilitating illness and can attack at any time and he was able to chair over a thousand meetings of the cabinet war of the defense committee, at any time day and night until 3:00 a.m. in the morning sometimes and that's not the mark of a depresssive. neither was he an alcoholic. again, he did drink an enormous
amount, cp scott sad that it win store churchill couldn't be an alcoholic because no alcoholic other could have drunk that much. and when you look at the amount that he drunk, and you have to remember that he was a -- he had an ox-like constitution and the 2,174 day of the second world war, only one day that people around him said that he was drunk, and on that occasion they ignored everything that had been decided that night and had to precisely the same meeting the next morning when he zoners up and so no decisions wick taken on the bank of his drinking but i came to the conclusion that in his words, of course, were correct when he said that alcohol was -- he had taken more out of alcohol than alcohol had taken out of him. >> you very firmly established in this book and in your
comments now that churchill was knee they're depresssive nor a drunk but when you look at his parents and how they treated him you myth not blame him for either of those affliction us. can you tell us about his parents, especially his father's treatments of him. >> yes. i think some of the -- his father, lord randolph churchill, was brilliants, mercurial, disdainful, elusive figure and was an orator and he never spotted any part of brilliance in his own son. instead he lambasted him. some of most moving letters are hers from churchill, begging really for love and affection from his parents. his mother was born in brooklyn and didn't/seemed to take on the english victorian attitude of -- towards children. when she was -- when winston was
ten years old, she wrote everything that she did in her diary in 1884 and only saw her son six and a half hours out of six months. and he said, churchill said, that he felt that she was -- wrote -- that he felt that she was like the evening star in that she shown brilliantly but at a distance. that obviously had a deep effect on him but the effect -- she showed no interest in him until he became a saying in torry on her trust -- signatorying on hi trust fund when she became very nice to him. after the father's death in 1894 at the age of 45 when churchill was 20, churchill proved his
almost, almost obsession with his father. he wrote his father's two volume biography, searched out his father's friends and adopted his father's political stance of benjamin disraeli's democracy, adopted this father's speaking style to put his hand on his hip. called his son, randolph. and then when he finally made some money, basically winston churchill was in the red until the early 70s. when finally he had some cash, to spend because he had written his war memoirs he did a very regency thing which was spend it on the first of 37 race horses and put the jockeys of the race horses into this father's racing colors, pink and chocolate. >> churchill fought and wrote his way all over the world and time and again he displayed a kind of extraordinary, even wreck his courage that many of his contemporaries were amazed another. he said later that courage this
first of human qualities because it's the quality that guarantees all the others. you of course tell us a great deal but churchill's courage in your book. could you discuss that and how that was important to his career and his ultimate success. >> yes. the physical courage was manifest from very early on. he charged with the 21st 21st lancer and where his units lost 25% casualties. his train was ambushed in the boar war and a couple months after that he escaped from a prisoner of war camp and made his way across 300-miles of enemy territory to escape. he was a man cop compounded of courage and this was a preparation for his trial because yaw saw it against in the second world war where as a prime minister the traveled
110,000 miles outside of the uk, in those five years of being prime minister, wartime prime minister, and he went in trains, across the atlantic, one of which was struck bylight inning. went across the atlantic with ewe -- u boots in the area where they had to constantly be changing direction avoid u boats, the flew none pressurized cabins in this late 60s and early 70s in areas that were being patrolled by the lust one-half -- german air force. it was a tremendous thing. he needed to do it because he was the glue that kept the big tree together. stalin refeud to flies and only left russia once, and fdr was
fro profoundly differ abled and went to conference is it took churchill to go to moscow twice and so on in order to be the glue that kept the big threing to. >> he was one of the first high level, prominently cal leaders in britain to spot the danger of hitler. why him? what about his background and experience helped him perceive what so many others could not? >> i think there were three things of firstly he was a semite. unlike many of his background and class and age, he liked jews. he had grown up with jews and his father liked jews. her thought the jews gave the ethics to world civilization. he felt comfortable around jews and so he had an early warning system for hitler in the nazis and what they were in a way that
british upper class people who were hasn't antisemitic didn't have. hi was a historian and so he was able to place the story of his own great ancestor, john churchill, who -- he wrote a four volume biography of his great ancestor and who had of course prevented the germanization of the continent by louis 14en in the war of spanish succession. he was able to place hitler in the long continuum of people who needed to be stopped from the continent, starting will phillip 2n of spain and louis 14th and then napoleon and then the kaiser, and so he is able to see hitler in the historical perspective. and the last reason was he ha had come up close to
fanaticizeways, he had seen nit she suddennan and islamist fundamental list fanaticism and he spotted the same traits in the nazis and hitler. and this was something that was simply not clear to people like neville chamberlin or mcdonald's, none of whom had seen than kind of fanaticism in their life. >> once his walk with destiny concluded and he became prime minister in may 1941 his most important weapons was his rhetoric. tell us about where this rhetorical power came from and the influences that went into it, including perhaps william shakespeare. >> yes, i do recommend the
>> he knew how important it was, so he did put in the hours necessary. and in 1940 one of his private secretaries asked him what the secret to his great wartime speeches were, and he said that you needed to keep words short, you needed to work out for yourself what you wanted to say and keep total clarity of the message, and you needed to keep sentences short. and, if possible, use words from old english. which would, which would naturally sort of appeal to the people listening to it in the english language. and when you look at the 141-word of the we shall fight
from the beaches speech, we shall fighting with great confidence from the air and ends, we shall never surrender, all but two of those words come from the old english. of those two, confidence, the word confidence comes from the latin, and surrender comes from the french. [laughter] >> indeed. [laughter] ture chill's -- churchill's rhetoric was, of course, a formidable weapon, but he was also a war leader who commanded what became, ultimately, a vast war effort. one of the things that marked it out from the beginning was its determination to coordinate it. can you talk about the lessons that he derived from his earlier experiences in the first world war and in other conflicts that he brought to 10 downing street as prime minister in may 1940? >> yes. well, i mentioned about the
horror of the gallipoli campaign where 160,000 allies casualties were suffered. and he insured that he was never again going to be in a position where that was going to happen, because he was never in the second world war to overrule the chiefs of staff in the way that he had overruled the admiralty in the great war. so in the whole of the, in the whole of the war. so he was a politician. he learned lessons. he learned from his mistakes. and also, of course, he knew that he had made lend endless errors all the way through his life. he'd got so many things wrong. he got women's suffrage wrong, he got the gold standard wrong, he god the abdication status wrong, gallipoli, of course, and many ohs. so he was a genius, but he was a flawed genius, and he knew that. and he also knew that he had to
learn from his mistakes. in fact, he told his wife clementine i should have made nothing if i had not made mistakes. >> since you mentioned clementine, tell us about -- [inaudible] they were married for a very, very long time. >> she's central, absolutely central to his existence. she gave him some of the best advice that he had for his career. she told him not to come out of the trenches too early in the first world war, which was a very difficult piece of advice to tell him because, of course, he was taking these risks and going off into the trench raiding. and she knew that. and yet she also knew that he would never be happy in life if he spoiled the reputation that he had by returning too early. in june 1914 she writes in a marvelous letter telling him to not be so beastly to the staff and be nicer to the private secretaries and the stenographers and the rest of it because he was just being too
egotistical and bullying and really difficult. and that seems to have worked, at least for the moment. [laughter] he was, he always thought of her as his rock and depending on her enormously. and the wonderful thing about her was that she could -- she was an aristocratic battle axe, basically, and she could be so rude to his political enemies. you certainly didn't want to get on the wrong side of clementine churchill when she was in full swing. and this marvelous letter that she writes to henry -- herbert asking wits, the prime minister in 1915, in which she tells him that he needs to re-employ churchill and not let him leave the add nilty. -- admiralty. although it got him nowhere, got her nowhere and was rather sniffy about the letter,
actually, when you read it today as a man to have a wife who could write a letter like that. absolutely magnificent. actually, i've got a wife who could write a letter like that. [laughter] >> i strongly suspect that we have a very large number of questions from the audience, and so i think we will turn to that now. if you do have a question, please raise your hand. anyone? we've got one over there. we've got a mona will come to you -- a microphone that will come to you. lady in red back there. here we are. >> hello. thank you very much. voice of america. eurasian service. i have a very specific question. so, you know, the question of the caw casas and the british withdrawal was in a way debated, so could you expand on that? what role did, you know, churchill have in these -- and i mean, like, after the first
world war, the withdrawal of the u.k. from the region. thank you. >> yes. it was the question really in september and october 1922 that brought down the lloyd george government. and it was a really -- went to the heart of what the british empire was going to be about because the government, lloyd george and churchill and others, wanted to insure that turkey stuck to the provisions of the treaty which were very harsh on turkey. and the turks weren't going to do it. and it was -- if people had supported the government, we would have possibly gone to war with turkey which nobody wanted to do four years after of the end of the great war. and so others really brought
down the government in order to prevent this from happening. so were we going to be a continuingly pugnacious power, the policemen of the world as was put in a letter to the times, or were with we going to stand back and effectively accept that we were going to be a declining power. and the -- what was called the carlton club meeting on the 19th of october, 1922, made it clear that it was going to be the latter. >> the gentleman in the bow tie. churchillian bow tie. >> hi. thank you for coming, sir. thank you, michael, for doing this and everyone at the churchill center. in christopher andrews' book, "defend the realm," it was a history of mi-5, one of the things that struck me was that churchill, the impression i had was that churchill was almost fighting a two-front war in the
run-up to him becoming prime minister, that he was also -- he was concerned with the rise of fascism, but he was also concerned about the rise of communism at the same time. and no one wanted -- it was almost, in some circle, in some policy circles, it seems like it was an either/or. and i just wondered if your book speaks to him trying to address that and get people to take it seriously. >> well, absolutely. chapter after chapter does. from the bolshevik revolution onwards, he was a convinced anti-communist. but by the late 1930s, certainly by 1939, he believed it was essential to get the soviet union into a defensive pact in order to stop hitler which, of course, had many problems not least because the poles were essential to this. but they, quite rightly, feared and despised the russians as much as the germans. so it was a really complicated
geostrategic decision that churchill took to embrace the soviet union which he had been denouncing for the previous, you know, decade and a bit. he did it partly with the help of ivan meske, the ambassador. we do now have new information about the extent to which he was doing this, and there is a chance that -- you mentioned the christopher andrew book which is the substantial biography of mi-5. the chance that he was being bugged by mi-5 because they obviously needed to know what was being said between him and meiske. the a pretty gray area, of course, like everything in the intelligence world, but nothing came of it, of course, ultimately because the nazi-soviet pact in april -- in august 1939 managed to leapfrog anything that the national
government were able to do. >> question. yes, ma'am. >> with this much material to choose from, i'm curious how you decided what not to include and is there anything you didn't include in your book that you could share with us tonight? >> the lady standing in the back there in the blue is my editor, and she knows better than anybody in the world what we did what we didn't include. basically, it could have been ten times bigger, couldn't it, joyce? yeah. >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> she said stretched to the limits of the binding. and you have to do that because there's just so much to say about churchill. but the real problem i found in writing this book was to, was what to cut out. it was condensation,
condensation, the whole time one had to condense. and sometimes it's like chopping off your little finger, you know? you've gone off to the archive, you've found a nugget that you're proud of, and you don't have space for it. it's a horrible feeling, but you've just got to do it because otherwise you either forced into two volumes, which doesn't sell so well -- [laughter] or you have something that if you drop it on your toe, it would break your leg. [laughter] but i think with this one, i had to agree with this one although it's got -- at the end there are about 150 pages of notes, bibliography and index you don't have to worry about. the actual bits that's the meaty part is under 1,000 pages. [laugher] -- [laughter] >> james.
>> could you talk about the modern case against churchill and how you consider it but a feather on the scale of history? >> yes, yes. no, this is very important especially since the, especially since the internet. the attacks on churchill have become ever more -- some of them, frankly, weird. but i saw the other day about your astronaut, scott kelly. the u.n. ambassador to space. only the united nations would send an ambassador to space. [laughter] haven't got a government or a people, but nonetheless. this man said that, he quoted churchill saying in victory magnanimity. and -- in a tweet. and he got an enormous number of twitter trolls saying that churchill was a racist and a
colonialist and a war criminalling and all of this kind of thing. and all the old canards came up, the gassing of the iraqi tribesmen, etc., etc. let me just point out, ladies and gentlemen, it's very clear when you go to the original documents, he was talking about tear gas. he was not talking about mustard gas. he made that clear in the letter. again and again with these things you just need to go back to the original sources or what mr. kelly should have done is just educate himself about churchill. instead, he put out a tweet saying that he was very sorry that he should have said anything in favor of this evil, racist, you know, warmonger. and then he got all the pro-churchill people -- [laughter] tweeting him. i really do think though that the space that mr. kelly should have concentrated on really is the one between his ears. [laughter] that gentleman over there.
>> [inaudible] for about 30 years after the war, there was a portrait of the grand alliance, everybody had gotten along, and then more and more the -- [inaudible] started to pay out the shameful way that franklin roosevelt treated winston churchill, in my personal opinion. maybe someone will troll me. but the question, i guess, is do you have any sense of how he personally felt about the way he was treated -- [inaudible] >> yes. i think it's too harsh, very much too harsh to say that it was shameful. i think fdr put more than best interests first which is the duty of an american president. so i don't think that because they didn't go to war against russia, which he'd have had to have done in order to impose the agreement made at yalta, that fdr can be accused of that. he did pivot in the tau ran conference -- tehran conference onwards towards trying to make
sure that there was a long-term arrangement with the russians which, of course, came to grief at yalta. but what happened at yalta really was that stalin lied all the way through about the integrity and independence of poland. and he still had over a million russian boots on polish soil. and without going to war with russia, it seems difficult to work out how on earth anything could have been done about that. so it was a terrible moment when, by march 1946 and the iron curtain speech in missouri, churchill was the first person -- just as brave as anything he said in the 1930s, and he got just as much -- [inaudible] for it as a result -- came out and said that soviet communism under stalin was going to be a scourge. and so, of course, by that stage fdr was dead. but you're right in saying -- where i think you're right is
that from the autumn of 1944 onwards, the close, friendly, relaxed working relationship between the two men had broken down. and there are over 300 more letters, i think it's 342 more letters from winston churchill to franklin roosevelt than there are replies from roosevelt to churchill. so maybe that's what you're referring to when you, when you use the word "shameful." >> yes, ma'am. in the but. just wait for one second, we'll bring the microphone to you. >> could you explain churchill's relationship with our presidents post-world war ii? i was under the impression that they shared our national intelligence information with him when he was in -- because he returned back as prime minister. so i'm pretty sure truman and eisenhower both -- and probably
kennedy finish both sent him our -- >> not kennedy, but -- >> not kennedy, but truman and eisenhower. >> yes. >> and i wanted to point out that in your imperial war museum you only have one book on general montgomery, and it's comparing him with rommel -- [laughter] and could you expand upon his relationship with general montgomery? thank you. p. >> well, first of all, the imperial war museum has undertaken the most terrible disbursement of books. they've sold their library, basically. and it's one of the great historical tragedies. and that's why they'll only have one book there. if you'd asked that question five years ago, there would have been well over 300 books in the imperial war museum on montgomery. his relationship with montgomery was subject to fluctuations. he admired him very much in the beginning, made him a field martial very early on in 1944 to
the fury of patton and omar bradley and various other people who wanted to be five-star generals at the time but weren't. he then thought that monty got too big for his boots, which monty most definitely had. he then friended monty in the -- sorry, in the postwar period. and then, to a great degree when monty, i think monty went round to -- [inaudible] had lunch 78 times in the course of the postwar premiership. and then he fell out with monty again. so they were like -- as he said of his relationship, they were hike too old birds pecking each other. but they ultimately, of course, there was a great deal of respect and admiration. was there a first part of the question? i've forgotten, sorry. >> [inaudible] >> yes, no.
well, of course, he -- like everybody else, churchill liked ike. but he actually wanted ad lie stephenson to win the 1952 election. and he was, he was nerve wracked because he thought that eisenhower wasn't going to pursue the policy of, basically, policy of nuclear appeasement that he wanted to pursue towards the russians after the russians exploded their nuclear bomb in april 1949. at that point the great i'm-communist, anti-soviet winston churchill who, of course, had been pro-soviet during the war and anti-soviet in 1946 at the time of the iron curtain speech, then went pro again because he saw that british interests were not best serve by having a heavily nuclearized soviet union. he thought that eisenhower would not address that whereas the democrats might. >> yes, sir.
we have a microphone. right here. >> thank you also for coming here. it's been a real treat. and having read your book on halifax many, many years ago, i can't wait to read your book on churchill. you probably get this question a lot since "the darkest hour" came out and the movie and now being an expert, obviously, on both the leading characters in that, what is your take on the movie? do you think that the artistic license that they took was necessary to get the story out to a wider audience? i'm just curious as your thoughts. >> thank you very much for reading my first book, "the holy fox." i wrote it 30 years ago. since then, i've written five other books with churchill in the title or subtitle. i really feel i was working with
destiny and that all my past life has been a preparation for this hour and this trial. [laughter] and the, i loved the film. i thought it was great. i loved, i love gary oldman's prosthetics, the sort of glint in the eye and the chortle. i thought he caught churchilling absolutely brilliantly. and the problem i had with it was that it actually detracted from the true leadership that was shown by winston churchill in may 1940 over the issue of making peace with adolf hitler where he did not go down into the subway and treat, and ask a focus group of people -- [laughter] in his, what he wanted to do, what he should do. neither was he visited by the king in his bedroom at midnight at number 10 downing street. [laughter] that didn't happen either. and so as a result, you actually have a detraction from the extraordinary leadership that he did show.
he decided that he was going to outmaneuver lord halifax. he didn't go to mp, he went to the wider cabinet. he put forward -- well, it's all in chapter 21 of my book. [laughter] it was a campaign to insure especially, of course, once we'd got 250,000 troops back from dunkirk by the 28th of may. these peace negotiations were never going to go anywhere. and it absolutely -- it's one of those pivotal moments in history that if they had, if halifax had been prime minister -- neville chamberlain continued as prime minister and had supported halifax -- we could have gone down a very, very danger path if we'd made peace with hitler then. because he would have been able to instead of using 50, 70% of the luftwaffe on the 22nd of june, 1941, he'd have been able to use it all. and when you think in the north
he got to subject leningrad to a grueling 1,000-day siege, and in the center he got to the subway stations of moscow, and in the south he actually captured stalingrad, what he'd been able to do if he'd had twice as many planes is terrifying to consider especially without america being in the war at the time. >> right back there. see a hand there. this young fella. yes. >> i was wondering if you could talk about churchill's role in the attack on the french at -- [inaudible] >> very good question. yes. it was something that almost broke his heart. he was a francophile to the end. he loved them, loved france, always had done. but when it became clear that the -- actually, nothing was terribly clear. [speaking french] nothing was terribly clear
because although we were intercepting the french naval signals, they weren't always being done in realtime and also not completely successfully. so churchill believed that the french fleet was not going to scuttle itself. this is, of course, the vichy fleet that was in the algerian port in iran but was actually going to try and fight it out and take on admiral sir james sommerville's force. and so churchill had to take this grindingly painful decision, especially, of course, as the -- this was on the 3rd of july, 1940, only two weeks before the germans had marched into paris of not just setting back in the hopes of close anglo-french cooperation, but also killing 3,000 as it turned
out -- 3,000? so i know -- >> 1200. >> yes, nearly 1300, 1299 french soldiers. and so he took that decision. it was one that he, he never regretted, and one of the reasons was that it sent the message to the world and especially here to the united states that we were going to fight on come what may. if you sink the french fleet and they were your allies only two weeks beforehand, it's clear you're not about to give up and make peace with hitler. thank you for the question. >> can you discuss the reaction at the -- >> well, the house of commons, of course, cheered, cheered churchill, and he cried as he so often did as i mentioned earlier -- [laughter] but he hated doing it and said so. but nonetheless, it was the first victory we'd had for some time. and, of course, actually, the
other thing is the royal navy itself splits between the officers who had been, who knew other french officers, and they'd been on each other's ships and trained with each other and knew each other and liked each other before devastated by having to kill so many frenchmen. and then the able seamen who just thought that they were something straight out of trafalgar and nelson and absolutely didn't mind in the slightest. [laughter] >> we have a couple more questions. this young man right here in the front, please. >> again, i just want to say thank you for being here. my question is what are your thoughts as to why he was not reelected right after the war? do you think maybe because when the war ended, people saw him as a symbol of the old order?
he was an imperialist, and they wanted to basically start anew? >> yes, that's one aspect of it. he -- it came as a terrible shock when he lost the 1945 general election on the 26th of july. he was, he expected to win because he'd been on one of after the other after the other of these election tours where he'd been cheered especially in the northern and midland towns. but, of course, his name was only on one ballot whereas a lot of conservatives who'd been appeasers, their names were on the others. and people wanted, after six years of devastating war, wanted to have a more, well, they wanted nationalization, they wanted the national health service, they wanted the welfare state and the beverage report put into operation. and they knew that it was going
to be the labour party that would do that with gusto. whereas although churchill did offer to do most of that, he would not do it with anything like the same conviction. and that's, essentially, what -- he also made an incredibly stupid remark during the election where he attempted to equate the labour party with the gestapo which was an extremely stupid thing to have done and probably also lost us a few seats. >> i think we have time for one more question. sir. here. >> of all the churchill biographers out -- of all the churchill boyle ifer ifs out there, how were you able to convince the queen to give you unfettered access to her father's diaries? [laughter] >> it was, i'd love to pretend it was anything other than serendipity. i just, i didn't take no for an answer, and i kept asking, which i think is always sensible with the royal archives.
also, you know, it had been 70-plus years since the events, and so i think that it was pretty much time. of course, that's a decision to be taken between her and sir christopher and her private secretary. so luckily, they came to the decision that i was going to get a yes rather than yet another no. like i say, i'd love to pretend it was archival genius. it wasn't at all. >> ladies and gentlemen, i'd like to invite recall -- invite all of you to join us here on the 26th when we welcome sir anthony beaver, november 26th at noon. and now i hope that you will take your own personal walk with deaths over to the book -- [laughter] and insure the education in the future of andrew's children by buying books -- [laughter] remembering that the holidays are just around the corner. and please allow andrew to make a dash to the signing table over
there where he will be only too happy to give you his autograph. thank you for being here tonight and, andrew roberts, thank you -- [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable orat