Tributes to Churchill: What They Said Back Then

Tributes to Churchill: What They Said Back Then

A col­league asks if there were any offi­cial trib­utes by the gov­ern­ment of India fol­low­ing Churchill’s death in Jan­u­ary 1965. He was curi­ous to know if Indi­an atti­tudes half a cen­tu­ry ago were as vir­u­lent as they are in some quar­ters today.

There were indeed trib­utes from India. Hei­di Egger­ton of the Churchill Archives Cen­tre pro­vid­ed this cov­er­age in The Times of 25 Jan­u­ary 1965, page 8, under the heading:

“Leader with Magic Personality”

DELHI, 24 JANUARY 1965— The Indi­an tri­colour fly­ing on all pub­lic build­ings in prepa­ra­tion for Repub­lic Day on Tues­day, was low­ered to half-mast today…. Ever since he was strick­en, Sir Win­ston has been remem­bered here far less for what Mr. Krish­na Menon today called “his bel­liger­ent days against Indi­an nation­al­ism” than for his long asso­ci­a­tion with India and his regard and respect for India. Pres­i­dent Sarvepal­li Rad­hakr­ish­nan said in a mes­sage to The Queen:

It is with pro­found sor­row that the Gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of India have learnt of the pass­ing away of the Rt. Hon. Sir Win­ston Churchill, great­est Eng­lish­man we have known. The mag­ic of his per­son­al­i­ty and his mas­tery of words renewed faith in free­dom in most dif­fi­cult areas of the Sec­ond World War. He left his imprint on the face of Europe and the world. His unfor­get­table ser­vices will be cher­ished for cen­turies. I con­vey to Your Majesty, the British Gov­ern­ment and peo­ple, our deep­est sym­pa­thy in your great loss. It must be some com­fort for you to know that your grief is shared by mil­lions all over the world.

“Never was so much owed…”

Ambaas­sador B.N. Chakravar­ty, per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive of India to the Unit­ed Nations, praised Churchill’s courage, for­tutde, vision, wit, vital­i­ty, and “super-human endurance.” Speak­ing to the Gen­er­al Assem­bly, Chakravar­ty continued:

It is with pride that I recall my brief asso­ci­a­tion with him in 1954, when I was act­ing as High Com­mis­sion­er for India in the Unit­ed King­dom and had the priv­i­lege of par­tic­i­pat­ing in his eight­i­eth birth­day cel­e­bra­tion.  His was a many-splen­doured life, full of adven­ture, tragedy and tri­umph. Now the glo­ry has depart­ed, but the mem­o­ry will endure, and the phras­es that he coined will stir the hearts of men for gen­er­a­tions to come. He enlarged the scope of man’s activ­i­ty and thus uplift­ed us all….It is no exag­ger­a­tion to say that nev­er was so much owed, by so many, to one man.”

Looking back

My col­league is writ­ing a fuller piece on world reac­tion to Churchill’s death for the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project. It is worth not­ing that the trib­utes back then arrived from Ger­many, Japan and Italy, the three for­mer Axis pow­ers. Kenya and South Africa, where Churchill sup­pos­ed­ly did the rep­re­hen­si­ble, sent sim­i­lar mes­sages. There was one from the Sovi­et Union, which, after the war, had denounced him as a war crim­i­nal. They came from the Anglos­phere, where his name was already leg­end. Friends and for­mer ene­mies alike, they all had trib­utes in his memory.

Tributes to Churchill

For read­ers seek­ing sources, the Zoller Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Works about Churchill (anno­ta­tions mine) con­tains the fol­low­ing three works:

*Grun­wald, Hen­ry Ana­tole, edi­tor. Churchill: The Life Tri­umphant. One of the more com­pre­hen­sive memo­r­i­al books, laden with col­or and black and white pho­tos, quotes from speech­es, Par­lia­men­tary repar­tee, Churchill paint­ings. Com­men­tary is by Time edi­tor Hen­ry Grun­wald, an admir­er of Churchill’s since the war years.

Unit­ed Nations. In Memo­ri­am: Trib­utes in Mem­o­ry of Sir Win­ston Churchill offered in ple­nary meet­ings of the Gen­er­al Assem­bly. Col­lect­ed trib­utes of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of U.N. mem­bers upon Churchill’s death.

U.S. Con­gress. Memo­r­i­al Address­es in the Con­gress of the Unit­ed States. “House Doc­u­ment No. 209.”  A col­lec­tion of trib­utes by sen­a­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives fol­low­ing Churchill’s death, with two of his three address­es to Con­gress and Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s remarks at the pre­sen­ta­tion of Churchill’s hon­orary Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship in 1963.

*Tributes to Grunwald

Hen­ry Ana­tole Grun­wald deserves more than a pass­ing men­tion. In 1994 I recruit­ed William A. Rush­er (then pub­lish­er of Nation­al Review), to speak at the 1994 Churchill con­fer­ence in Banff Alber­ta. He gave love­ly talk and a fine trib­ute to Grunwald:

Fast for­ward to 1946. The war was over and in June I was wait­ing to enter Har­vard Law School, a class they had start­ed for return­ing vet­er­ans. That spring I met in New York two young fel­lows with whom I shared an intense admi­ra­tion for Win­ston Churchill. One, Noah Kar­lin, was a Russ­ian, edu­cat­ed at Har­row, very British in man­ner. The oth­er was a copy boy at Time who had emi­grat­ed from Aus­tria, Hen­ry Grun­wald. He lat­er became edi­tor-in-chief of Time and Unit­ed States Ambas­sador to his moth­er coun­try. In 1965 he wrote one of the finest trib­utes, in Churchill: The Life Tri­umphant, pub­lished by Amer­i­can Heritage.

After he deliv­ered his “Iron Cur­tain” Ful­ton speech in March, Churchill planned to return through New York. Noah Kar­lin had the idea of hold­ing an Old Har­ro­vians’ din­ner with Churchill as guest of hon­or. He could round up maybe twen­ty or twen­ty-five Har­ro­vians in New York and booked a pri­vate club in Man­hat­tan. Hen­ry Grun­wald and I signed on as wait­ers, so that at least we could get to look at the great man. Churchill did actu­al­ly speak in New York, at the Uni­ver­si­ty Club, of which I was not then a mem­ber. But he had no time for anoth­er appear­ance and the deal fell through.

* * *

Grun­wald com­piled an impres­sive book of trib­utes. Today they remind us what the world thought, twen­ty years removed from the great­est war in his­to­ry. That war could have been lost at the out­set. That it was not was the work of the one man who, in May 1940, real­ly mattered.

2 thoughts on “Tributes to Churchill: What They Said Back Then

  1. Anoth­er exam­ple of how actu­al his­to­ry (as shown above) con­trasts with cur­rent ideas taught and believed by those who dis­re­gard actu­al his­to­ry, and actu­al facts. Per­haps the griev­ing peo­ple of India looked at the main fact. The main rea­son to be grateful.

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