Sunday, February 15, 2015

Robin and Winston

Robin Hathaway was working on a mystery set during WWII in the years before she died. She said to me, “You know, if it hadn’t been for Winston Churchill we wouldn’t be here.” I thought I knew what she meant. Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt had worked together to defeat the Germans and the Japanese.

But I knew very little really. I read, at Robin’s suggestion, a one volume edition of Harold Nicholson’s Diaries and Letters (I now own a 3 volume set). Churchill emerges as a man who is able to espouse a cause he believes in, no matter how unpopular.

Then I moved on to Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon. Chips was an American who became a British M.P. He wasn’t very influential as a parliamentarian, but he threw great parties attended by everybody and he kept diaries. He records many conversations with people who thought Hitler was admirable. The Lindbergs just couldn’t get over the delights of Nazi Germany. Such energy! Joe Kennedy, the US Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, urged Roosevelt not to help the British. He was sure they’d have to make a deal with Hitler anyway. WWI had been a horror for Europe and efforts were made to avoid another conflict at all costs.

Churchill thought appeasement was the very worst of ideas and through stubbornness and oratory was able to convince the British people that life under Nazi domination wouldn’t be worth living. Churchill, known as a politician, actually made his living as a writer, and was able as Edward R. Murrow observed “to mobilize the English language and send it into battle.” (I have to say I felt outraged when Rudolph Guiliani, during the 2004 Republican Convention referred to Dubya as “our Churchill”.)

This is the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death (a much bigger deal in England than it is here). There are more volumes about Churchill than one could ever read and he wrote many volumes of history himself. He and Robin had in common a love of Treasure Island, and Churchill has a talent for tales of adventure and derring-do. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.

But to get some notion of what Robin Hathaway and Edward R Murrow were talking about it is perhaps best to listen to one of his speeches:

I am sorry to say that as I searched Youtube for this particular speech, I made the mistake of reading some comments left by Youtube users. I forget that lots of people seem to be innocent of any knowledge of history, particularly if the events in question occurred before they were born. But if people honestly believe that the only difference between Churchill and Hitler is that Churchill was on the winning side, we're in a great deal more trouble than I thought.

© 2015 Stephanie Patterson


  1. Yes, I was familiar with Robin's work on this topic. She and I had a memorable long lunch where she queried me about my experiences during WW 2 on the beach in Norfolk, etc. I was able to give her some good background for this novel... I read recently that some colleagus were gong to finish it and get it published. Do you know what hjappened to it??? TJStraw

  2. With all do respect to Mr. Churchill and the history of WW II, I was heart sick when FB reminded me this week that it was Robin's birthday. I would have loved to have seen another one of her novels published. And I remember, Thelma, you mentioning that Robin was interested in your experience during the WW 2 when you were just a young girl! Robin was a lovely person.

  3. WWII

    Two stars hung in our window
    To let the whole world know
    We had two, who to war had to go
    Folks from all over, would happen by to see
    And I was proud, as proud as I could be.
    A telegram brought news of one.
    He never did return.
    The other fought and won the war.
    Thank God he did return.
    Two Stars: Two Heros
    Jimmy Burke (RIP)
    Jack Fife
    And I am proud as proud as I can be.
    If we had stars today they’d be of GOLD
    For two not here today
    Thank you ! God bless you !

    Ed Broderick

  4. It is a melancholy fact that the anniversaries of Robin's birth and death are very close together. I didn't mean her memory to be overwhelmed by the mention of Winston Churchill. However, Robin brought richness and color to all of our lives and I want to emphasize that rather than just dwelling on how sad it is that she's dead.Her discussions of Churchill really led me to a very fascinating area of study. I think of her every day and there is no question that we all miss her as we always will.