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.”
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:
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.
*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.