WICKED WIT OF SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL #1
From the book compiled by Dominique Enright (published 2001)
For those who have been studying for some time from this Website,
you will know I try to bring you some old, often un-known books.
This book I never knew existed. To be sure it is not hard to find
books OF or BY Sir Winston Churchill, on a secular level one of
the greatest men to ever live on this good earth. The Lord has
led me over the years to be in the right place at the right time,
to find a number of super books that I have uploaded to this
Website. Yesterday, February 20th I had a few minutes to spare
before going in to see the recent India movie "Slumdog
Millionaire" (a movie well worth seeing). The "Chapters" large
chain book store is just across the parking lot from the Odeon
Movie theater. A still small voice said to me, "Go take a look on
their sale tables." I did. And that is how I found the last copy
of this book that I had no clue was ever written. They were
selling it for $2. The best couple of dollars I've spent in some
time. Sit back and have a smile or a laugh at the wit of
Sir.Winston Churchill, a gifted man in so many way - Keith Hunt
SIR WINSTON LEONARD SPENCER CHURCHILL was born in 1874 at
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, the eldest son of Lord Randolph
Churchill and his American wife, and a nephew of the Duke of
Marlborough. Despite an undistinguished career at Harrow, he
attended the RMA, Sandhurst, before being gazetted to the 4th
Hussars. Following service in India and on the North-West
Frontier, he took part in the Nile Expeditionary Force in the
Sudan in 1898, and was attached to the 21st Lancers when that
regiment made its famous mounted charge against the dervishes
during the Battle of Omdurman. As a newspaper correspondent
during the Boer War of 1899-1901 he was captured when the
armoured train he was travelling in was ambushed and derailed,
but later successfully escaped his captors and made an epic
journey back to British lines. He was present at a number of the
most famous battles of the campaign, including Spion Kop.
Churchill entered Parliament as a Conservative MP in 1900
but, finding himself increasingly at odds with the party, in 1904
crossed the floor of the House and joined the Liberal Party,
becoming Under-Secretary for the Colonies in 1906 and President
of the Board of Trade two years later, in which post he
introduced labour exchanges. Appointed Home Secretary in 1910, he
was involved in the Siege of Sidney Street the following year,
and not long afterwards changed his post for that of First Lord
of the Admiralty, and thereafter worked furiously to prepare the
Royal Navy for the war with Germany that he knew must come; he
also worked tirelessly on the development and deployment of
tanks, an invention for which (as was later officially
acknowledged) he was partly responsible. In 1915 he resigned in
the face of blame for the costly failure of the Dardanelles and
Gallipoli operations, and went to France to take command of an
infantry battalion on the Western Front. He returned to Britain
in 1916 and in 1917 took up the post of Minister of Munitions in
the Coalition government now headed by Lloyd George. He was
Secretary for War and Air from 1919-21, but in 1924 changed
allegiance once more when he was elected to a different
constituency as a 'constitutionalist' Conservative; from then
until 1929 he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Without office in the 1930s under Ramsay MacDonald's
National government and the succeeding Tory administrations, he
increasingly warned from the backbenches of the dangers of German
rearmament, of appeasement of the dictators, and of Britain's
absolute lack of preparedness for war, referring to the Munich
settlement of 1938 as 'a total and unmitigated defeat'. The fall
of Norway in May 1940, and the imminent threat to British forces
in France and to Britain herself, led to a vote of no confidence
in the administration headed by Neville Chamberlain, whom
Churchill succeeded as Prime Minister, immediately forming
a Coalition government. Despite the disasters in Belgium and
France, victory in the Battle of Britain, followed by successes
at sea and in North Africa, helped to stiffen the country's
sinews, aided immeasurably by Churchill's leadership and his
oratory. His close personal friendship with President Roosevelt
ensured American support and, following Japanese and German
declarations of war against the USA in December 1941, did much to
smooth the often rocky path of inter-Allied co-operation, while
his ability both to flatter and to stand up to Stalin promoted a
relationship with the Soviet Union that helped to ensure the
defeat of the Axis. After German defeats in North Africa and
Russia, and American naval victories over the Japanese in the
Pacific, the tide of war began to turn, and Churchill
increasingly directed his formidable talents to the total defeat
of Germany, Italy and Japan and the maintenance of the Triple
Alliance which was to bring that about. He was not to share in
the final triumph, however; in the general election of July 1945,
two months after Germany's unconditional surrender, the war-weary
British people voted the Labour Party into power, and Churchill
handed over the premiership to Clement Attlee.
He remained an untiring leader of the Opposition, while his
fame and reputation ensured that he maintained an overwhelming
presence on the international stage. In 1951, aged seventy-seven,
he became Prime Minister again, resigning in 1955 in
favour of the much younger Anthony Eden, although he stayed on as
a backbencher well into his old age, until failing health forced
him to give up his seat in Parliament. He died, full of years and
honours, in 1965 and, after a magnificent state funeral, was
buried in the graveyard of the tiny parish church close to
Blenheim Palace, the house in which he had been born.
'The characteristic of a great man is his power to leave a
lasting impression on people he meets,' Churchill once said. Was
he thinking of himself? He was certainly not blind to his own
stature. He was one of the few people who can truly be said to
have been larger than life. His life was not only long but it was
full and varied - full of friends, and of enemies; full of action
and creativity, of argument and ruthlessness. There were many who
loved him, many who hated him, and many, it seems, who both loved
and hated him. Exuberant and spoiled, childish and childlike,
kind and cruel, enquiring but pig-headed, hardworking and
generous but conceited and determined to be centre-stage ...
Churchill was all of these things. Remembered as a political
leader, as a wartime strategist, and as the last of the great
public orators, Churchill's fame also rests upon his many books,
notably his histories. These include "The World Crisis" (four
volumes, 1923-9), "Marlborough" (four volumes, 1933-8), "The
Second World War" (six volumes, 1948-54) and "A History of the
English-Speaking Peoples" (four volumes, 1956-8), besides
numerous volumes of speeches and broadcasts, volumes of
autobiography, a biography of his father, one rather poor novel,
"Savrola" ('I have consistently urged my friends to abstain from
reading it.'), and countless articles, including some on painting
which were published as a book, "Painting as a Pastime."
Altogether he published more words than Charles Dickens and
Walter Scott together - 'more books than Moses,' he once joked.
He painted well enough for the painter Sir John Lavery to say:
'Had he chosen painting instead of statesmanship I believe he
would have been a great master with the brush', and his work,
under the name Charles Morin, was accepted by the Louvre. He had
the inventive imagination and mental application to devise the
tank: '. . . fit up a number of steam tractors with small
armoured shelters, in which men and machine-guns could be placed,
which would be bullet-proof... The caterpillar system would
enable trenches to be crossed quite easily, and the weight of the
machine would destroy all wire entanglements,' he wrote to the
Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, in January 1915. In addition, he
played polo, was a fine shot - and enjoyed bricklaying, even
accepting an invitation to join the Amalgamated Union of Building
Trade Workers. For someone whose formal education was less than
full, this list of achievements is especially impressive. However
it may be, Churchill himself suggested that his slow progress at
school might have been a hidden blessing: 'By being so long in
the lowest form I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer
boys ... I got into my bones the essential structure of the
normal British sentence - which is a noble thing.'
'He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle,' said
John F Kennedy in 1963 when granting Churchill US citizenship.
There are those who believe that during the Second World War
it was the inspiring power of his speeches that kept up morale
and ultimately led the Allies to victory. Others were less
enchanted: 'In private conversation,' complained the writer and
administrator Lionel Curtis, 'he tries on speeches like a man
trying on ties in his bedroom to see how he would look in them.'
Of the orator and his audience, Churchill said:
Before he can inspire them with any emotion, he must be
swayed by it himself. When he would rouse their indignation,
his heart is filled with anger. Before he can move their
tears, his own must flow. To convince them, he must himself
believe. His opinions may change as their impressions fade,
but every orator means what he says at the moment he says
it. He is never consciously insincere.
Asked by Adlai Stevenson, in 1955, on what he based his
oratorical style, Churchill told him: 'America - and Bourke
Cockran, who use every note of the human voice organ.' Churchill
had met Cockan, a New York politician, on his first visit to the
United States sixty years before, and they remained friends over
the years. Cockran, said Churchill, 'could play on every emotion
and hold thousands of people riveted ... when he spoke.' Yet it
is Churchill who is remembered for his oratory. It might be
because Churchill was a very emotional man himself - and not
ashamed of showing his feelings ('I blub an awful lot, you know.
You'll have to get used to it,' he warned Anthony Montague Browne
soon after the latter's appointment as his Private Secretary) -
that he could strike a chord in the emotions of his listeners.
Which is not to say that he did not also manipulate his words:
'There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk
into babies,' he said in a 1943 radio broadcast - he had a fine
ear for the heartstring-tugging phrase and the chorus of 'Aahs'
can almost be heard. This was also, however, an aspect of his
soft-heartedness - which could on occasion descend to the absurd,
as when this ruthless politician - who had called upon the nation
to fight, fight, fight, and never surrender - while watching a
film of Oliver Twist at home put a hand over his dog Rufus's eyes
so that Rufus would not see Bill Sikes drown his dog. Or as when
he would hand a book to his secretary saying to 'put it away,
Toby has read it'- Toby being his budgerigar who, along with a
cat, had the run of his bedroom (and of his guests - Jock
Colville, one of Churchill's Private Secretaries, relates
counting fourteen budgie droppings on Rab Butler's bald head one
day when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Butler had spent some
time at Churchill's bedside going through budget papers with the
Prime Minister, who liked to work in bed. Butler himself told of
an earlier such visit to Chequers, in 1943 - he had found the
Prime Minister in bed, with Nelson the cat curled up on his feet:
'This cat,' declared Churchill,'does more for the war effort than
you do. He acts as a hotwater bottle and saves fuel and power.'
Churchill's ability with words was not only employed in
sonorous speeches (most of which were fine oratory but not wicked
wit), but also in his impish - indeed, often childish - sense of
humour. He could not resist making a quip - occasionally even
when he did not actually mean what he was saying - to the extent
that over the years many witty remarks whose provenance is in
fact far from certain have been ascribed to him. Some he denied -
but might well have been responsible for; others that he was not
responsible for he might well have been quite happy to have
credited to him. Thus of those witticisms and stories that follow
not every single one can be guaranteed to have originated with
Churchill - but they could have, and some he would have liked to
have coined. Whistler's comment to Oscar Wilde when the
playwright remarked, 'How I wish I had said that' comes to mind:
'You will, Oscar, you will.'
(And old Churchill, in old age, still admired the physical beauty
of the female. One video clipping I've seen, is Churchill setting
up a dinner and inviting Marilyn Monroe. She sat indeed next to
him. A number of times throughout the evening he would look at
her and say, "My dear, you are indeed beautiful." They say beauty
is in the eye of the beholder, but for one, I fully agree with
you Winston, she was a beauty, pretty faces there has been, been
none to outrank Marilyn - Keith Hunt)
Be killed many times: POLITICS
The political arena is famously a battleground where the
weapons are words, and many are the insults that flow back and
forth across the parliamentary floor.
'The world today is ruled by harassed politicians absorbed in
getting into office or turning out the other man so that not much
room is left for debating great issues on their merits.'
'Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous.
In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times,'
Churchill is said to have remarked in 1920 - he had many more
political deaths to live through. On one occasion, in 1916, when
he was in bad odour with the Conservatives he wrote to the Prime
Minister Lloyd George, who was planning a trip to Russia, 'Don't
get torpedoed; for if I am left alone your colleagues will eat
Asked what qualities a politician required, Churchill replied,
'The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next
week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability
afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.'
At a press conference in Cairo in 1943, however, he admitted: 'I
always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is much better
policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place.' (In
1927, he had remarked to the House, 'A hopeful disposition is not
the sole qualification to be a prophet.'
When Churchill was still a Liberal and serving under Herbert
Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister, a Conservative MP in
conversation with Churchill described Asquith as 'wicked'.
Churchill thought of Asquith, and then of Arthur Balfour, the
Conservative leader of the Opposition: 'No,' he said, 'Balfour is
wicked and moral. Asquith is good and immoral.'
'When I was called upon to be Prime Minister, now nearly two
years ago, there were not many applicants for the job. Since then
perhaps the market has improved,' Churchill informed the House of
Commons in January 1942. The likelihood is that the market had
not yet improved - and would not until after the end of the war.
It was clearly not the world's greatest job during the war years
as a contemporary handwritten note from Churchill to Stanley
Baldwin, a former Conservative Prime Minister, attests: 'I cannot
say that I am enjoying being Prime Minister very much.'
'No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed,
it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government
except all those other forms that have been tried from time to
time.' Churchill uttered these words in a speech to the House of
Commons in November 1947 - he had by then seen some of those
'other forms' of government and had not liked them.
To an MP bouncing up and down with interruption after
interruption during one of his speeches, an exasperated Churchill
advised, 'The honourable gentleman should really not generate
more indignation than he can conveniently contain.'
'The high belief in the perfection of man is appropriate in a man
of the cloth but not in a prime minister.'
When passed a very long and turgidly written memorandum on some
worthy but uninspiring subject, the elderly Prime Minister
weighed the thick wad of paper in his hands and commented, 'This
paper by its very length defends itself against the risk of being
Churchill's definition of a parliamentary candidate was succinct:
'He is asked to stand, he wants to sit, he is expected to lie.'
Describing the difference between a candidate and an MP: 'One
stands for a place - the other sits for it.'
'The Conservative Party is not a party but a conspiracy' (These
words were uttered during Churchill's spell as a Liberal.)
And not much later, he was heard to remark 'Tory democracy is a
democracy which supports the Tories,' and also: 'The Tory fault -
a yearning for mediocrity.' Some years later, in 1923, he
announced 'I am what I have always been - a Tory Democrat. Force
of circumstances has compelled me to serve with another party.'
'Reconstructing a Cabinet is like solving a kaleidoscopic jigsaw
'Headmasters have powers at their disposal with which Prime
Ministers have never been invested.'
Even in the House of Commons, Churchill could be pretty childish
- deliberately so, probably to keep the attention of his
listeners. Thus exchanges such as this one, in April 1941:
WSC: 'We have all heard of how Dr Guillotine was executed by the
instrument he invented.'
Sir Herbert Samuel: 'He was not.' WSC: 'Well, he ought to have
During Churchill's 'wilderness years' in the 1930s a number of
Baldwin's ministers were being mentioned as candidates for
peerages. A couple of them had been particularly hostile to WSC,
and, it is said, when a colleague remarked to him that their
names were among those being bandied about, and asked him what he
thought, his answer was brief and to the point: 'Peerages, no -
'It would be a great reform in politics if wisdom could be made
to spread as easily and as rapidly as folly.'
'They are not fit to manage a whelk stall,' Churchill said of the
Labour Party in 1945 when he was ousted from the premiership in
A Member of Parliament's rambling monologue against Churchill's
wartime policies was interrupted by the Prime Minister: 'I must
warn him that he runs a very grave risk of falling into senility
before he is overtaken by age.'
'I do not challenge the honourable gentleman when the truth leaks
out of him from time to time.' One of Churchill's political
rivals had just interrupted him with a rebutting fact.
While campaigning in 1900, it is said that the young Churchill
was doing a spot of canvassing when one of those he approached
exclaimed: 'Vote for you? Why, I'd rather vote for the Devil!' 'I
understand,' Churchill answered. 'But in case your friend is not
running, may I count on your support?'
Not long before Churchill crossed the floor to join the Liberal
Party, he remarked of his (then) fellow Conservatives: 'They are
a class of right honourable gentlemen - all good men, all honest
men - who are ready to make great sacrifices for their opinions,
but they have no opinions. They are ready to die for the truth,
if only they knew what the truth was.'
'They say you can rat, but you can't re-rat,' Churchill remarked
in 1941, referring to changing political parties. He, of course,
had re-ratted. He is also said to have observed: 'Anyone can rat,
but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.'
'A change of party is usually considered a much more serious
breach of consistency than a change of view': ratting clearly
needed some justification - 'Some men change their party for the
sake of their principles; others change their principles for the
sake of their party.' (WSC was very probably familiar with the
words attributed to Disraeli: 'Damn your principles! Stick to
Still on the subject of ratting, in 1920, a fellow Liberal MP
crossed the floor to join the ailing Socialist Party, at which
Churchill remarked, 'It is the only time I've ever seen a rat
swimming towards a sinking ship.'
While, in an exchange in the Commons in 1926 when Churchill was
Chancellor of the Exchequer, his Labour predecessor Philip
Snowden accused him of switching positions on his budget.
Churchill pointed out that there was nothing wrong with change if
it was in the right direction, to which Snowden countered that
'The honourable gentleman is an authority on that.'
Churchill retorted happily: 'To improve is to change; to be
perfect is to change often.'
'If I valued the honourable gentleman's opinion I might get
angry,' WSC responded calmly when an Ulster Member shouted
'Contemptible' during an Irish Home Rule debate in the House.
'See it is said that leaders should keep their ears to the
ground. All I can say is that the British nation will find it
very hard to look up to the leaders who are detected in that
somewhat ungainly posture.'
'When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or
attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time
when I get home.' (It was 1947, the government no longer
'There is not one single social or economic principle or concept
in the philosophy of the Russian Bolshevik which has not been
realized, carried into action, and enshrined in immutable laws a
million years ago by the white ant.'
'The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of
blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing
'Trying to maintain good relations with a Communist is like
wooing a crocodile. You do not know whether to tickle it under
the chin or beat it over the head. When it opens its mouth, you
cannot tell whether it is trying to smile or preparing to eat you
Asked in 1952 by a Labour MP if he, the Prime Minister, was aware
of the deep concern felt by the British over the question of the
Korean conflict, WSC answered, 'I am fully aware of the deep
concern felt by the Honourable Member in many matters above his
'Politics is like waking up in the morning. You never know whose
head you'll find on the pillow'
Having been interrupted time and again by one particular Member
during a speech to the Commons, Churchill eventually announced,
'The honourable gentleman ... has arrogated to himself a function
which did not belong to him, namely to make my speech instead of
letting me make it.'
OH THE WIT OF CHURCHILL, TALK ABOUT BEING SHARP, AND THIS IS ONLY
THE BEGINNING - LOTS MORE TO COME. DID YOU CATCH THE ONE: "TO IMPROVE
IS TO CHANGE, TO BE PERFECT IS TO CHANGE OFTEN." I LOVE THAT ONE, A CHILD
OF GOD MUST ALWAYS BE CHANGING. PETER PUT IT THIS WAY: "GROW IN GRACE
AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST (2 PETER 3:18)
- Keith Hunt
Entered on this Website February 2009