Writing in the Arizona Republic, Clay Thompson properly corrects a reader who believes it was Churchill who coined the phrase, “we shall squeeze Germany until the pips squeak” when he was “secretary of the navy.” Mr. Thompson correctly replied that this was not Churchill but, among others, Sir Eric Campbell-Geddes, who served as First Lord of the Admiralty (civilian head of the Navy) in 1917-19. The line has also been ascribed to Prime Minister David Lloyd George and others.
Churchill, as Thompson says, criticized this policy in The World Crisis, his memoirs of World War I. True to his maxim, “In war, resolution…In victory, magnanimity,” Churchill, who was Secretary of State for War in 1918-19, argued that the Allies should ship boatloads of food to Germany after the German surrendered, and that lenient terms be meted out to the defeated enemy.
But “squeezing Germany until the pips squeak” was indeed the policy adopted by the Allies at Versailles, committing Germany to vast reparations and squeezing so hard they contributed to a German economic collapse in the 1920s, leading ultimately to Hitler.
Thanks to Clay Thompson for puncturing this particular instance of “Churchilllian Drift.”