Nazi Banners Drape Blenheim for “Transformers” Film

Nazi Banners Drape Blenheim for “Transformers” Film


The Nazis are com­ing! Kübel­wa­gen at Blenheim Palace in “The Last Knight.”

Trans­form­ers: Blenheim Palace bedi­zened with Nazi Swastikas? File this in the over­flow­ing cat­a­logue of much ado about nothing.

Blenheim Affront

On Sep­tem­ber 25th, sev­er­al Churchill writ­ers received an email: “Urgent Media Request—the Sin.” (A typo for the Sun news­pa­per, though iron­i­cal­ly appropriate.)

“I’m a jour­nal­ist with the Sun,” we were told by a mem­ber of their staff. “I’m work­ing on a sto­ry in our paper tomor­row about a dis­gust­ing act which tar­nish­es Sir Win­ston Churchill’s mem­o­ry.” He didn’t say what, but it was easy to guess.

The dis­gust­ing act, already blast­ed around via the Inter­net, was to drape Blenheim (“Churchill’s home” accord­ing to reports) with huge Nazi ban­ners. This was for an episode for the fifth “Trans­form­ers” film, The Last Knight, open­ing next June.


Trans­form­ers huff and puff! Not only was Blenheim Churchill’s home, the Jerusalem Post informed its read­ers. Sir Win­ston him­self “is buried on the grounds.” (Blenheim was nev­er Churchill’s “home,” and he is buried in the near­by vil­lage of Bladon.)

None of us replied to this naked attempt to stir arti­fi­cial uproar. A friend and col­league in Lon­don wrote: “I told the Sun when they called that I can man­u­fac­ture syn­thet­ic out­rage as much as the next man, but couldn’t on this occasion.”

Of course that did not stop the qual­i­ty press from flog­ging news­pa­pers over movieland’s affront to Churchill and Blenheim. The scene crawled with Nazi storm troop­ers, they report­ed. Why, there was even a rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ger­man Jeep (Kübel­wa­gen). The news­pa­per found two vet­er­ans to denounce the sac­ri­lege. “I know its a film,” said a colonel who served in Afghanistan. “But it’s sym­bol­i­cal­ly dis­re­spect­ful to Churchill. He will be turn­ing in his grave.” The grave in Bladon, I presume.

Some Churchill admir­ers joined the ruckus, say­ing it would mis­lead the young. Into what? Believ­ing the Nazis won World War II? Even assum­ing the film iden­ti­fies the build­ing as Blenheim, the young are famil­iar with the Inter­net. Two or three clicks will inform them that the Ger­mans, er, nev­er got quite that far.

Remark­ably, but per­haps typ­i­cal­ly, the Sun seems the only paper will­ing to pub­lish pho­tos of the offen­sive scene. It was in place only for a short time. It appears to have been shot in the dead of night. The ban­ners were pulled down before the day trip­pers arrived.  Blenheim is a pop­u­lar venue, the ances­tral home of the Dukes of Marl­bor­ough.


“Trans­form­ers” direc­tor Michael Bay defend­ed the shoot, claim­ing Churchill would in fact be pleased with the plot of The Last Knight. “Peo­ple have not been for­tu­nate enough to read the script and they don’t know that Churchill in this movie is a big hero,” he told the BBC. “Churchill would be smil­ing. When you see the movie, you’ll understand.”

BlenheimWhat is the prob­lem with using Hit­le­ri­ana as a prop in some fic­tion­al sto­ry? It’s been going on for years. Back in 1972, Nor­man Long­mate dis­played a Swasti­ka fly­ing over the Palace of West­min­ster on the jack­et of his alter­nate his­to­ry, If Britain Had Fall­en. Nobody was even slight­ly out­raged. Per­haps this lat­est ker­fuf­fle is a prod­uct of our all-too-ready habit of tak­ing “offense” at any­thing that might dis­turb 0.001% of the citizenry.

Sir Winston’s grand­son, Sir Nicholas Soames, is always able to put non­sense in per­spec­tive. Speak­ing to the Guardian, he described the episode as “a com­plete­ly man­u­fac­tured row” and “absolute­ly the most dis­mal, idi­ot­ic sto­ry I’ve ever read….

“They do as all news­pa­pers do,” Soames con­tin­ued. “They go until they can find some wretched vet­er­an who is pre­pared to say, ‘Win­ston would be turn­ing into his grave.’ They’ve no idea what my grand­fa­ther would have thought!”

Transformers: What Would Churchill Think?

I know what he would have thought! Churchill loved movies. He’d be fas­ci­nat­ed, and would greet the fic­tion with a guf­faw as he puffed on a big cig­ar in his easy chair at Chartwell.

BlenheimI have no par­tic­u­lar objec­tion to the “offen­sive” pho­to. But I won’t add to its fif­teen min­utes of fame. So you’ll have to click on the Sun link to see it.

Unin­ten­tion­al­ly, per­haps, the Sun includ­ed a pho­to of Churchill giv­ing his famous V-sign palm-in, not palm-out. In Eng­land, this means quite some­thing oth­er than “Vic­to­ry.” Per­haps it is appro­pri­ate to the occasion.

•Com­ing up: anoth­er Swasti­ka-bedraped British icon, in my review of Nor­man Longmate’s alter­nate his­to­ry, If Britain Had Fallen.

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