Question: I was born in 1942 (Niagara Falls, New York). I have a sentimental curiosity over where Churchill was as his pocket watch second hand swept from 1941 to 1942. Do you know the circumstances on that New Year’s Eve? —E.C., Michigan, USA
Answer: Unexpectedly (because I don’t know many of his end-of-year pronouncements), I do. Don’t tell me you were born on January 1st. If you were, Churchill might have been hurtling past Niagara Falls virtually at the same time!
It was a key moment in his story, and in the history of World War II. For the first time since the war had started, he knew Britain was going to win. He didn’t know when that will be; but he was certain of the outcome.
1 January 1942
As 1942 began, the attack on Pearl Harbor was three weeks old. America was in the war at last. Churchill was on a train returning from Ottawa, Ontario (where he had made the “Some chicken–some neck!” speech to the Canadian Parliament) to Washington, where he wo;uld resume his strategy meetings with President Roosevelt in the ominous days following Pearl Harbor and the Japanese invasion of southeast Asia.
The Prime Minister called his staff and newspaper reporters to the dining car of his train to welcome the New Year. Then, raising his glass to the company, he made this toast:
Here’s to 1942, here’s to a year of toil—a year of struggle and peril, and a long step forward towards victory. May we all come through safe and with honour.
—from Churchill by Himself page 498, the predictions chapter entitled “Churchill Clairvoyant.” The first published reference is in Churchill’s speech volume, The End of the Beginning (London: Cassell, 1943, page 3).