Great website! I am a psychologist writing a book manuscript on the biological basis of self-confidence. I am an admirer of Churchill, I would like to use a quote from The Gathering Storm movie to demonstrate Churchill’s tremendous confidence. Can you help me find the film comment, to Ralph Wigram? In conversation with a schoolmate [Murland Evans] he says he had a strange feeling. One day, he said, Britain would be in great danger, and it will fall to him to save London. —B.J.S.
Thanks for the kind words. Privately the Churchill of early World War II was not so confident as his speeches proclaimed. In May 1940 he said to his bodyguard, Walter Thompson, “I hope I’m not too late.” Later he confided to Roosevelt that the Germans might well invade Britain and install a puppet government. While assuring FDR that such a government would not be run by him, he suggested they might install the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley “or some such person.”
As France was falling in May 1940, Churchill did not favor seeking an armistice with Germany. But Neville Chamberlain’s diary for the end of May records Churchill as saying that “if we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and Gibraltar and some African colonies, he would jump at the chance.” Of course, he may have just been throwing a bone to Lord Halifax, who was arguing for an approach to Hitler through Mussolini’s “good offices.” (The mind boggles.)
To Murland Evans, 1891
Nevertheless, the screen play in The Gathering Storm about foreseeing the future had its origins in fact. It came when Churchill was 17 years old, as quoted in Sir Martin Gilbert’s In Search of Churchill, page 215:
…I can see vast changes coming over a now peaceful world; great upheavals, terrible struggles; wars such as one cannot imagine; and I tell you London will be in danger—London will be attacked and I shall be very prominent in the defence of London. I see further ahead than you do. I see into the future. This country will be subjected somehow, to a tremendous invasion, by what means I do not know, but I tell you I shall be in command of the defences of London and I shall save London and England from disaster.…dreams of the future are blurred but the main objective is clear. I repeat—London will be in danger and in the high position I shall occupy, it will fall to me to save the Capital and save the Empire.
Sir Martin explains that he was given this quote by Churchill’s Harrow schoolmate Murland Evans, who recalled their conversation “in one of those dreadful basement rooms in the Headmaster’s House, a Sunday evening, to be exact, after chapel evensong.…We frankly discussed our futures. After placing me in the Diplomatic Service…or alternatively in finance, following my father’s career, we came to his own future….”
See also my review of The Gathering Storm on this website.