Churchill’s Favorite Newspapers

Churchill’s Favorite Newspapers

Which news­pa­pers did Churchill pre­fer? I am par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in 1919, when he was Sec­re­tary of State for War and Air. Was he a Times or Tele­graph read­er? —J.W., via email

Await­ing his train at St. Andrews, Fife, cir­ca 1940.

Remark­ably, Churchill  read all the news­pa­pers he could lay his hands on—from The Times to the Dai­ly Work­er, the British ver­sion of which was lat­er renamed the  Morn­ing Star.

He would do this in bed of a morn­ing after break­fast­ing off a tray. He liked to dis­card each sheet of a news­pa­per to the left and right. In the 1940s this infu­ri­at­ed his valet, Frank Sawyers, who made a show of dis­ap­proval as he picked up the sheets.

A news­pa­per stringer in West­er­ham, who kept an eye on his activ­i­ties when he was at his coun­try home, Chartwell, could always tell if Churchill was in town: The vil­lage news­mon­ger would stock only one copy of the Dai­ly Work­er. No one else would buy it, so if it was still on the news­stand, he knew Churchill was away.

Read­ing all the news­pa­pers com­bined with his pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry to give Churchill a tremen­dous arse­nal in Par­lia­men­tary debate. Here is one instance from Churchill By Him­self, new­ly updat­ed as Churchill in His Own Words:

Mr. Fen­ner Brock­way (Lab.): “Is [the Prime Min­is­ter] aware that…the Iver Heath Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty Asso­ci­a­tion held a fete to raise mon­ey for par­ty pur­pos­es to which it invit­ed Amer­i­can Ser­vice base­ball teams to par­tic­i­pate for a ‘Win­ston Churchill’ tro­phy?”

WSC: “I read in the Dai­ly Work­er some account of this. I had not, I agree, ful­ly realised the polit­i­cal impli­ca­tions that might attach to the mat­ter, and in so far as I have erred I express my regret. [If the sit­u­a­tion were reversed] I hope we should all show an equal spir­it of tol­er­ance and good humour.”

Churchill’s reply was the cause of much laugh­ter, includ­ing on the Labour side.

As to his pref­er­ences: We may assume he gave more cre­dence to The Times than any­thing else, and The New York Times when he could obtain it. (In old age he was pho­tographed aboard the Onas­sis yacht Christi­na,read­ing the NYT on the after­deck.) He would have also read papers he was writ­ing for. In 1919 this was the Evening News.

He wrote many let­ters to the edi­tor of The Times,  the near­est to your date being 19 August 1920, when he wrote sup­port­ing Earl Haig’s appeal for wound­ed war vet­er­ans. He also wrote to obscure peri­od­i­cals, like The George­town Gazette, pub­lished by a muni­tions fac­to­ry staffed by women, whom he com­pli­ment­ed in Novem­ber 1917 when he was Muni­tions Min­is­ter.

3 thoughts on “Churchill’s Favorite Newspapers

  1. “Churchill in His Own Words” (pic­tured on the home page) is the new cor­rect­ed and updat­ed edi­tion of “Churchill By Him­self.” It con­tains an exten­sive new “phrase index” which makes find­ing Churchill quo­ta­tions eas­i­er than ever. It is avail­able from Ama­zon UK which sells direct in Cana­da and the US: It’s already avail­able and is pic­tured on my home page. It may be avail­able in Cana­di­an book­stores but oth­er­wise can eas­i­ly be ordered from Ama­zon UK: amzn.to/P9K7n1

  2. He was a jour­naliost him­self so he knew good news­pa­pers, includ­ing count­ing he wrote for.

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