Divine Intervention: Taking Care of Winston

Divine Intervention: Taking Care of Winston

The fol­low­ing quo­ta­tions, sub­ti­tled “Divine inter­ven­tion,” are excerpt­ed my quo­ta­tions book, Churchill by Him­self.  They will appear in the  “Reli­gion” chap­ter in the upcom­ing fifth expand­ed edi­tion, to be published in 2024 by Hills­dale Col­lege Press and Roset­ta Books. Alto­geth­er, the new work will add 1200 entries and exceed 500,000 words. That is 2.5% of Churchill’s total out­put, which is enough between two cov­ers. My thanks to Andrew Roberts, Dave Tur­rell, and Hills­dale Col­lege Pres­i­dent Lar­ry Arnn for kind assis­tance with research.

Divine intervention

While Churchill was not an ortho­dox church­man, he spoke of reli­gion often. The word “reli­gion” stems from a Latin word mean­ing “respect or duty to what is sacred.” Churchill cer­tain­ly adhered to that.

When he referred in speech­es to “Chris­t­ian civ­i­liza­tion,” he did not mean to exclude Jews or Bud­dhists or Mus­lims. He meant those words stood for prin­ci­ples he con­sid­ered uni­ver­sal. He cit­ed the Ten Com­mand­ments, the Ser­mon on the Mount, the Gold­en Rule, char­i­ty, for­give­ness and courage. Dr. Lar­ry Arnn writes:

He thought Chris­tian­i­ty both good and vital. Sev­er­al times he indi­cat­ed some dis­tance between him­self and its ortho­dox doc­trines. Con­sis­tent­ly he had great respect for the Divine. Placed in a wider con­text, none of this is remark­able. Clas­sic phi­los­o­phy, hun­dreds of years before Chris­tian­i­ty and not in con­tact with Judaism, is almost all the­is­tic on ratio­nal grounds. The argu­ment goes this way: To say one thing is bet­ter than anoth­er is also to say that it is more per­fect. What would be the sim­ply per­fect? God.

In his youth, Churchill’s reli­gion includ­ed the belief that God was pre­serv­ing him for some high­er pur­pose. The his­to­ri­an Andrew Roberts notes that Churchill had many nar­row escapes: sev­er­al child­hood ill­ness­es, near-death from rup­tured kid­ney, near-drown­ing in Lake Gene­va. He sur­vived close brush­es fight­ing in five wars on five con­ti­nents from 1897 to 1916. He was near­ly killed by a car in New York, sur­vived assas­si­na­tion plots and ene­my air­craft. Lord Roberts adds: “Not with­out rea­son he believed that an impor­tant oblig­a­tion of the Almighty was to watch over the life of Win­ston Churchill.”

1897: “Who’s that damn fool on the grey?”

—22 Decem­ber, Ban­ga­lore, India, WSC to his moth­er….

I am very grat­i­fied to hear that my fol­lies have not been alto­geth­er unno­ticed. To ride a grey pony along a skir­mish line is not a com­mon expe­ri­ence. But I had to play for high stakes and have been lucky to win. I did this three times, on the 18th, 23rd and 30th, but no one offi­cial­ly above me noticed it until the third time when poor Jef­freys, a nice man but a bad gen­er­al, hap­pened to see the white pony. Hence my good fortune.

Bul­lets to a philoso­pher my dear Mam­ma are not worth con­sid­er­ing. Besides I am so con­ceit­ed I do not believe the Gods would cre­ate so potent a being as myself for so pro­sa­ic an end­ing. Any way it does not matter.

His faith in Divine prov­i­dence was already evi­dent. WSC was describ­ing his selec­tion of a light grey horse dur­ing a skir­mish, when Jef­freys shout­ed, “Who’s that damn fool on the grey?” Patrick Dou­glas Jef­freys (1848-1922), com­man­der, Sec­ond Brigade, Malakand Field Force, 1897.

1915: “A hand had been stretched out to move me…” 

Art­work from the cov­er of “Reflex­ions et Aven­tures,” the 1939 first French edi­tion of “Thoughts and Adven­tures.” (Com­pos­ite by Bar­bara Langworth)

—24 Novem­ber, Ploeg­steert, Belgium…

With the Army in Flan­ders, Churchill was sum­moned from the trench­es for a social vis­it with the Corps Com­man­der. Grum­bling, he trudged the rainy, mud­dy fields to a ren­dezvous, where the general’s car failed to appear. It had become lost, and the gen­er­al had returned to his head­quar­ters. Now indig­nant, Churchill began his “trudge back”….

Tired out and very thirsty, I put my head into the near­est Com­pa­ny Mess for a drink. “Hel­lo,” they said, “you’re in luck today”…. I did not under­stand their allu­sions at all….

I had got with­in twen­ty yards of my shel­ter when a Sergeant, salut­ing, said: “We have shift­ed your kit to Mr. —‘s dug-out, Sir.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Yours has been blown up, Sir.”

“Any harm done?” “Your kit’s all right, Sir, but — was killed. Bet­ter not go in there, Sir, it’s in an awful mess”….

“When did it hap­pen?” I asked.

“About five min­utes after you left, Sir. A whizzbang came in through the roof and blew his head off.”


WSC. writ­ing the next day to Clemen­tine Churchill …

Sud­den­ly I felt my irri­ta­tion against Gen­er­al —* pass com­plete­ly from my mind. All sense of griev­ance depart­ed in a flash. As I walked to my new abode, I reflect­ed how thought­ful it had been of him to wish to see me again, and to show cour­tesy to a sub­or­di­nate, when he had so much respon­si­bil­i­ty on his shoul­ders. And then upon these quaint reflec­tions there came the strong sen­sa­tion that a hand had been stretched out to move me in the nick of time from a fatal spot. But whether it was the General’s hand or not, I can­not tell.

Now see from this how vain it is to wor­ry about things. It is all chance or des­tiny and our way­ward foot­steps are best plant­ed with­out too much cal­cu­la­tion. One must yield one­self sim­ply & nat­u­ral­ly to the mood of the game: and trust in God wh[ich] is anoth­er way of say­ing the same thing.

 Clemen­tine replied: “It is hor­ri­ble to sit here in warmth & lux­u­ry while dan­ger & suf­fer­ing are so close to you— That dread­ful walk across the fields there & back among falling shells was on Nov 24th & now it is 10 days lat­er & Heav­en knows what nar­row escapes you may have had since.”

*The Corps Com­man­der whose casu­al invi­ta­tion saved Churchill’s life was Brigadier Sir Richard Hak­ing GBE, KCB, KCMG (1862-1945). In Octo­ber 1919 Churchill and Field Mar­shal Sir Hen­ry Wil­son named Hak­ing to head the British Mil­i­tary Mis­sion to Rus­sia. For an account by H. Ash­ley Red­burn, who met Hak­ing in lat­er life, click here.

1935: “Over me beat the invisible wings”

—Novem­ber 1935 (writ­ten 1948)…

Churchill and Cham­ber­lain on 14 March 1935. (Wiki­me­dia Commons)

It had been wide­ly bruit­ed that I should join the [1935] Gov­ern­ment as First Lord of the Admi­ral­ty. But after the fig­ures of his vic­to­ry had been pro­claimed, Mr. Bald­win lost no time in announc­ing through the Cen­tral Office that there was no inten­tion to include me in the Gov­ern­ment. In this way he paid some of his debt to the paci­fist dep­u­ta­tion which he had received in the last days of the elec­tion. There was much mock­ing in the Press about my exclu­sion. But now one can see how lucky I was. Over me beat the invis­i­ble wings.

—Here is one case where Divine Prov­i­dence pre­served him not from death but for pol­i­tics. In the 14 Novem­ber 1935 gen­er­al elec­tion, Stan­ley Baldwin’s Con­ser­v­a­tives tri­umphed to dom­i­nate the Nation­al Gov­ern­ment. Had Churchill been part of that gov­ern­ment, he would have been bound by “col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty,” unable to con­tin­ue the warn­ings that proved so prophet­ic by 1939, and pro­pelled him into office in 1940.

One thought on “Divine Intervention: Taking Care of Winston

  1. Churchill’s life sug­gests that whether he believed in God, God believed in him. Excel­lent essay.

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