The most unusual birthday tribute a son has ever paid to his father

Winston Churchill’s 90th birthday leads to a special edition of All Our Yesterdays and a counterfactual tribute from his son Randolph

Sir Winston Churchill is 90 on Monday, when, as a birthday tribute, All Our Yesterdays will devote its entire programme to him. TV Times asked Randolph Churchill to write about his father. The result is a unique tribute, perhaps the most remarkable ever paid to this great man.

Churchill in silhouette

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 28 November 1964

SEAHAM HARBOUR, November 30, 1964

TODAY, on what would have been the ninetieth anniversary of my father’s birthday (if only he had survived), I sit down to tell a tale of the sad state of what was once the free world.

Ever since 1940, when Hitler occupied our country, I have been prisoner in a slave-labour camp in County Durham and have been forced to work in the coal mines.

My readers are too young to remember the past — the golden, free world in which we used to live. Now the Swastika flies all over Europe — over the Louvre, over the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

Over the White House itself, and the Federal Reserve Bank in Fort Knox.

People of my generation, if any survive, will realise the full irony of the fact that I have had to smuggle this story to the only country in which it can be published — the Chinese Peoples’ Republic.

All else has succumbed to Hitler. He is now a venerable and largely benevolent figure aged 75.

He administers his colossal empire — the largest since the days of Rome — in a paternal fashion from his palace in Potsdam. He does not condescend to spend more than a week at Buckingham Palace, or more than three weeks in the White House. He leaves the administration of these vast territories to his able but not so benevolent, gauleiters.

For the record we may as well know, now there is an opportunity of a free Press in the Chinese Peoples’ Republic, how these events came about. The year 1939 saw the culmination of the Baldwin-Macdonald decade.

During this time the English people were lulled into a sense of lethargy and apathy.

They were taught by their masters to place their reliance upon the League of Nations — a bogus absurdity which President Woodrow Wilson was not allowed by the American Senate to adhere to, and from which Germany and Italy were to resign.

The defence of the country had been scandalously neglected by the Conservative Party with the willing co-operation of the Socialist Party. Even the timid and tardy attempts of the Secretary of State for War, Mr. Hore-Belisha, to introduce conscription in 1939 were voted against, not only by the Socialist Party.

Sir Archibald Sinclair also led the Liberals into the Opposition lobby with this caitiff and recreant attitude.

All this, of course, is old history. Any of my readers who have not been permanently brainwashed will recall how in June, 1940, France was overwhelmingly defeated, and how Chamberlain called in Lloyd George to play the role of an English Petain and negotiate terms for surrender with the Germans.

They will remember how the Germans, to begin with, treated us with consideration because of our handing over our Fleet in good order to them; how the Germans used this Fleet, joined with theirs, to protect their convoys for the peaceful takeover of Latin America.

How the Americans were supine spectators of this flagrant breach of the Monroe Doctrine; How the Americans eventually in 1943 reacted; How they were defeated by the Germans and the Japanese.

It is too late to lament those events.

Of course the bravest of our race resisted. Duff Cooper and Anthony Eden made impudent and saucy speeches. Hitler indicated in the early 1940’s that London would be obliterated unless they were silenced. Silenced they were.

Three men in uniform
The man in unfamiliar French helmet, is Lt.-Col. Winston Churchill. The Date – 1915. Supposing he had died then…

Now, nearly 25 years later, we are all so numbed by the slavery in which we dwell, where no revolt, no resistance is any longer possible without even a handful of people in whom a spirit of freedom still resides.

Can anything be better than to escape to the Chinese Peoples’ Republic? It is reputed that there, thousands of miles away, whither it is practically impossible to escape, a few breaths of freedom can still be drawn.

At the age of 53 I am too broken in mind and spirit to think of escaping myself. It is only through the kindness of a few friends, who have supplemented my rations, that I have been able to summon up the energy to write this brief account which a more adventuresome friend of mine hopes to smuggle to China.

I don’t suppose any Englishman or American will have an opportunity of reading this. But perhaps it will give a few Chinese comfort in their lonely freedom.

It is tempting to think of what might have happened if there had been a man who, in 1940, could have rallied the British nation to a sense of its duties and responsibilities.

A man who could have gained a breathing space in which the United States might have come into the war.

My father, Winston Churchill, who is little remembered today was, alas, killed in Flanders in 1915 on his 41st birthday. Is it fanciful to suppose that if he had lived all might have been different?

Could he, perhaps, have galvanised the British peoples, with the blood of Marlborough and Lord Randolph Churchill in his veins, into a heroic resistance?

More extraordinary things have happened than this in the history of the world.

Perhaps he could have held the ring and formed a grand alliance which would have beaten hell out of the Hitlerian hordes.

Perhaps, at least, part of Europe, the United Kingdom, India and the United States might still be free if he, or some other equally audacious spirit, had been available, even at the age of 65, in the early summer of 1940.

It was not to be. And it is vain to make such speculations.

All resistance is now impossible, but some of the older ones like myself can still record their recollections and their fancies, writing on scraps of lavatory paper in cellars late at night by the light of improvised tallow candles.

A watchtower over a prisoner camp

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