THE WIT OF SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL
From a book compiled by Dominique Enright
'I decline utterly to be impartial as between the fire brigade
and the fire.' (Speaking to the House in July 1926, during the
General Strike, Churchill was responding to complaints about bias
in his editing of the British Gazette.)
'Physician, comb thyself.' (The 'physician' in this speech to the
House of Commons in May 1916 was the War Office, which was
calling for the 'combing-out', or pruning, of industries and of
other government departments.)
'Well, the principle seems the same. The water still keeps
falling over.' Churchill was clearly irritated at being asked if
the Niagara Falls looked the same as when he first saw them.
'If it is a blessing, it is certainly very well disguised.' It is
said that Clementine remarked that his defeat in the 1945
election was perhaps a blessing in disguise; he did not agree.
Even on the most serious of occasions, Churchill could not resist
little jokes, and when he arrived on the Normandy beach-head on
D-Day-plus-6 (12 June 1944) to meet Montgomery, he sent Roosevelt
a postcard: 'Wish you were here.'
'It's a nuizenza to have the fluenza,' Churchill wrote
irrefutably to Roosevelt in 1942.
Early in 1945, there was an exchange of letters between President
Roosevelt and Churchill about the agenda for the Yalta
conference. The American President could not see any reason why
they could not complete the plans for establishing the UN during
the six days of the conference. Churchill wrote back: 'I don't
see any way of realizing our hopes for a World Organization in
six days. Even the Almighty took seven.'
On a visit to New York in the early 1930s, Churchill was taken to
a game of American football. Asked what he thought of it, he
replied, 'Actually it is somewhat like rugby. But why do you have
all these committee meetings?'
In May 1955, a BBC spokesman defended an impending programme, a
debate entitled Christianity vs. Atheism, pointing out 'It is our
duty to truth to allow both sides to debate.'
'I suppose, then, that if there had been the same devices at the
time of Christ,' Churchill retorted, 'the BBC would have given
equal time to Judas and Jesus.'
Seated one day with the dour director-general of the BBC, Lord
Reith, a tall Presbyterian Scot of gloomy aspect, Churchill was
heard to mutter, 'Who will rescue me from this Wuthering Height?'
Although he played golf - and probably enjoyed it - Churchill was
clearly not an obsessive bore about the game: 'Golf is like
chasing a quinine pill around a pasture,' he once remarked. And
on another occasion: 'Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very
small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill
designed for the purpose.'
(A friend of his, Lord Riddell, told of a game of golf they had
together in 1911, when they came across an earthworm on the golf
course. WSC gently picked up the worm and placed it in the
bracken, saying, 'Poor fellow! If I leave you here, you will be
trampled upon by some ruthless boot.')
'Surely there never was an army which marched like the army of
science.' But, dismayed at the comparative failure of the United
Kingdom to produce as many scientists and engineers as the United
States, Churchill spoke soon after ending his last term as Prime
Minister about how he should have tried to see the establishment
in Britain of an equivalent to the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. His former secretary Jock Colville and others
immediately set about making amends, raising funds for a new
college which was to be part of Cambridge University and devoted
to science and technology. It was suggested that the new college
be named after Churchill. When Colville relayed this suggestion
to Churchill, his reaction was not one of immediate gratification
- to have a memorial in his own lifetime, and in a university
when, despite his many honorary degrees and Chancellorship of
Bristol University, he had never gone to university, must have
seemed strange. But Colville persisted: 'What memorial could be
more lasting than a great university college?'
After a pause, WSC replied: 'It is very nice of them. And I ought
certainly to be pleased. After all, it will put me alongside the
Anxious as he was to promote science and technology, Churchill
saw that science for science's sake could be dangerous:
'Scientists should be on tap but not on top.' And, in the context
of war, 'The latest refinements of science are linked with the
cruelties of the Stone Age,' he commented in a speech in
March 1942. He also remarked, 'I have always considered that the
substitution of the internal combustion engine for the horse
marked a very gloomy milestone for the progress of mankind.'
But he also said: 'There ought to be a hagiology of medical
science and we ought to have saints' days to commemorate the
great discoveries which have been made for all mankind ... a
holiday, a day of jubilation when we can fete St Anaesthesia, and
pure and chaste St Antiseptic ... and if I had a vote I should be
bound to celebrate St Penicillin.' (Penicillin had been used to
treat Churchill when he had pneumonia in 1943. Though, according
to Lord Moran's diaries, a staphylococcus infection that he
contracted in June 1946 was stubbornly resistant to penicillin -
whereupon Churchill remarked, 'The bug seems to have caught my
truculence. This is its finest hour.')
'When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite,'
Churchill wrote, referring to the ceremonial form of the
declaration of war against Japan, 8 December 1941. It had been
felt that Japan's behaviour - the almost simultaneous assaults on
the US Pacific Fleet's base at Pearl Harbor and upon British and
Dutch possessions in the Far East, including Malaya and Hong
Kong, called for a more aggressive response.
Churchill was a great champion of liberty in all its forms
(within reason, naturally), and he also recognized that liberty
could mean liberty to be foolish, in speech especially: 'Where
there is a great deal of free speech, there is always a certain
amount of foolish speech.' And in a speech to the House of
Commons in October 1943, he elaborated on this theme. 'Everyone,'
he said, 'is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes
without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that
they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything
back, that is an outrage.'
'Mr Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I thought served him
Asked if he had bought a copy of the latest bestselling novel
(said to be "Gone With the Wind," published in 1937), Churchill
answered sententiously 'There is a rule that before getting a new
book, one should read an old classic.' He then hastened to add:
'Yet, as an author, I should not recommend too strict an
adherence to this rule.'
'No, I only read for pleasure or for profit,' Churchill is
supposed to have answered when asked by Lord Londonderry if he
had read his last book.
In an article on world affairs published in April 1938,
Churchill, increasingly concerned by Britain's lack of
preparedness against the growing German menace, said, 'We have
never been likely to get into trouble by having an extra thousand
or two of up-to-date aeroplanes at our disposal ... As the man
whose mother-in-law had died in Brazil replied, when asked how
the remains should be disposed of: "Embalm, cremate, and bury.
Take no risks!"'
On painting: 'I prefer landscapes. A tree doesn't complain that I
haven't done it justice.' And: 'I cannot pretend to feel
impartial about colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am
genuinely sorry for the poor browns.'
'There are men in the world who derive as stern an exaltation
from the proximity of disaster and ruin, as others from success.'
'This is one of those cases in which the imagination is baffled
by the facts,' WSC commented in a speech to the House of Commons
in May 1941, referring to Rudolf Hess's parachute descent into
'Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the
past and the present, we shall find we have lost the future.'
'I am sure that the mistakes of that time will not be repeated;
we should probably make another set of mistakes.' June 1944:
Churchill was responding in the House to a call not to repeat the
mistakes made after the First World War.
At a time when Allied merchant and fishing vessels were under
persistent attack from Germany, Churchill, in a BBC broadcast was
able to offer some reassurance to the nation: 'I am glad to tell
you ... that the heat of their fury has far exceeded the accuracy
of their aim.'
In 1941, in a minute to the Minister of Public Works and
Buildings, who seemed to be allowing enthusiasm for his job to
override the current circumstances, WSC felt constrained to urge
him, 'Do not let plans for a new world divert your energies from
saving what is left of the old.'
Endorsing Pears Soap, WSC declared: 'Englishmen and Americans are
divided by an ocean of salt water but united by a bathtub of
fresh water and soap.' (His partiality for baths has elsewhere
been commented on.)
Asked why Lloyd George's Parliamentary Private Secretary, Sir
Philip Sassoon, had been so lucky in his jobs, Churchill replied
laconically, 'When you are leaving for an unknown destination, it
is a good plan to attach a restaurant car at the tail of the
His valet, Norman McGowan, recalled how, when WSC was wearing the
uniform of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports during a tour of duty,
one of his epaulettes fell off. He continued without it, but
later that day remarked to McGowan, 'It's a good job I personally
fasten my braces.'
During the last years of his life Churchill gradually withdrew
from public life, spending his time quietly - sometimes in
France, sometimes at Chartwell - where he would enjoy visits from
friends, with whom he often played cards, or talked at length. At
times he lamented that he was no longer capable of original
thought - but would sometimes surprise himself by coming out with
some sharp and shrewd comment. Even at the very end of his life,
when it sometimes appeared that he was lost in a world of his own
he would join in the conversation with a sudden and relevant
'I know what it's like to be a log: reluctant to be consumed but
yielding in the end to persuasion.' Churchill spoke these words
as he gazed into a log fire, not long before his death.
'Luckily, life is not so easy as all that; otherwise we should
get to the end too quickly,' Churchill wrote in "My Early Life"
(1930). He ensured he had more than enough to fill his ninety
years of life not to get to the end too quickly.
Ah, indeed it has been a nice kind of divergence for a while,
going over this compilation of the wit of Winston Churchill.
I was inspired to go to the local library and borrow all the DVDs
and VHSs they had on the life of Churchill. It has been both
interesting, educational, and inspiring, to view and listen to
them all. You may like to do the same. If you have school
children I would encourage you to do it.
He was a remarkable man, a man with many gifts and talents. He
had his faults as well as his strengths, he had his likes and
dislikes, many liked him and disliked him all at the same time.
If it had not been for the Second World War (SWW) he probably would
have gone down in the "Political History" books as a foot note
saying "also ran." Yet he was able during his political life to
bring in some fine laws for the common working man and woman.
Without the SWW Churchill probably would be more famous today as
an author, he wrote SIX THICK volumes on the "Second World War,"
as well as volumes on the "History of the English Speaking
People," and other books.
I have no doubt at all that the Eternal God had chosen him to
lead the British Commonwealth of nations and in some part the
United States of America, to battle and destroy the monstrous
evil that was Adolf Hitler and the Nazi empire.
He was a man, nay, even a prophet, who had the vision to see what
Hitler was about, many years before 1939. He spoke and wrote
about Hitler as desiring world conquest, and was looked upon by
the "political establishment" as a buffoon. It was not Churchill
that was the buffoon, it was the ruling Prime Minister of Britain
and his cabinet, that were the buffoons.
Churchill travelled extensively, hundreds of thousands of miles
during the SWW, by plane, ship, car, horse, to rally the troops,
without any thought to the danger it could be for him. He had
that inner assurance that this was his life-long destiny, that he
was made and planted here for such an hour as this. He often told
his body-guard that he would not be taken alive. The bullets of
his gun were to take some Nazis and the last bullet was for
himself. He really did mean what he said about fighting them on
the beaches, on the landing strips, in the streets, and that
Britain would never surrender to the evil of this monster from
He appreciated Stalin and the Russian people fighting on their
side against Hitler, yet he never ever trusted Stalin, and he
knew what the desire was for Russia when the war ended, and that
was to have central and southern Europe as part of the Russian
empire. He had no misgivings about the evil that communism could
be, which President Roosevelt was blinded to.
Churchill had a prophetic insight of things as Hitler was rising
to power, and he had a prophetic insight as to Stalin's Russia
after the war.
But it is ironic, and a part of the Churchill story I did not know
until I watched the videos of his life, that as the man that led the
West against the evil and tyrany of Hitler's Germany that wanted to
conquer the West, and indeed all the world, it was Churchill that was
the first voice after the war to proclaim that Europe should UNITE into
a "united states of Europe" empire. He really had no idea that such a
call for unity in Europe would be the call to resurrect the last and
final Holy Roman Empire, the Mystery Babylon the Great, that would fulfill
the end-time BEAST power of the book of Revelation, and that would
in due time, rule the Western world, and bring in the darkest and
greatest tribulation that the history of mankind has ever seen,
or will ever see.
As the man of the hour for the SWW, as Winston Churchill was,
it must be remembered that he was not a minister of the Most High
God. Hence it could not be expected that he would know and understand
the prophetic Word of the Lord as the holy Scriptures proclaim for the
last 42 months of this age.
One aspect of the man Churchill that I relate to in a very real
way, it that he was an "emotional" man. Many people tell of the
times, the many times during those war years, that tears would
flow down the cheeks of his face, unabashed and unashamed, he
would let them flow, as something touched his heart. Despite his
foibles and mistakes, his brashness and sarcastic wit at times,
his willingness to be touched and shedding tears, was probably
one of the reasons people loved him so much. Have you ever seen a
political leader shed tears in public?
Yes, if you have not ever done so, take some time out, go borrow
the DVDs etc. from your local library on the life of Winston
Churchill. You will see he was a man called and chosen for such
an hour as this.