Drama-documentary about Winston Churchill's experiences during the Great War, with intimate letters to his wife Clementine allowing the story to be told largely in his own words.
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AIR-RAID SIREN AND BOMBING
On becoming Prime Minister in 1940,
Winston Churchill said
that all his past life had been preparation
for a moment of destiny.
But no chapter had prepared him more than the First World War.
In 1914, he had felt the same call of destiny and glory,
but would experience humiliation and disgrace.
Gallipoli, this great Napoleonic strategic stroke, when it failed,
was more than simply, "This is a failed campaign."
This got to his very soul.
In early 1916, he was an infantry officer serving in the trenches,
where his battle to clear his name and regain war command began.
This is a classic story of hubris and nemesis and then redemption.
The story of his fall and rise can be told largely in his own words,
for Churchill confided all to his young wife, Clementine,
in an intimate correspondence.
I cannot tell you how much I love and honour you, and how sweet
and steadfast you have been through all my hesitations and perplexity.
His "darkest hour" would prove to be Clementine's finest,
as war transformed the most important relationship of his life.
This is a woman who's a great political strategist,
who is his confidante and is the only person who can talk to him
openly, frankly, honestly.
Churchill would make thrilling contributions to the war
on land, sea and air.
But the hardest battle lay within himself.
He was a simply astonishing man
who'd never understood the meaning of stop, finish, over,
and was just going to press on till the very end.
This is the story of Churchill and the First World War.
The cauldron in which a greater warlord would be forged.
In July 1914, as Europe spiralled suddenly toward war,
a young British Minister stood apart from his troubled peers.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Spencer Churchill,
was the political head of the Royal Navy.
Brilliant, but vain, he believed he had a special gift for war.
In August 1914, Winston Churchill is best described
as a bundle of excitement and energy.
He's a man who's gone a very long way in a short time.
He's been a leading social reformer in the House of Commons.
He has been Home Secretary
and now he's the political head of the Royal Navy.
And I think all of his virtues are there but also his vices.
Above all, he's not trusted by many people.
War was in Churchill's blood.
A Sandhurst-educated cavalry officer, his dashing accounts
of imperial adventures
and a prisoner-of-war escape in the Boer War
helped spur him to the top of the ruling Liberal government.
Two things are essential for understanding
Winston Churchill's character.
First of all, he thinks of himself as a soldier -
actually, a warrior might be a better way of putting it -
but he, fundamentally, sees himself as a military man.
The second thing is that he is an imperialist.
He has an unquestioning belief in the British Empire,
as, indeed, almost everybody did, at that point.
Churchill was no warmonger.
But since 1911, he and the Admiralty had responded vigorously
to the growing naval ambitions of the German Empire.
He would not flinch from conflict.
Aged just 39, and at the very peak of his powers,
he wrote to his wife of heady events and emotions.
My darling one and beautiful.
Everything trends towards catastrophe and collapse.
I am interested, geared up and happy -
is it not horrible to be built like that?
The preparations have a hideous fascination for me.
29 years old and nicknamed "The Cat", Clementine Spencer Churchill
was on a seaside holiday with their two young children.
Clementine Churchill was an Edwardian beauty.
She was highly strung, she was quite emotional.
In July 1914, there's a great deal of anticipation
and excitement in the air that's about the war,
and she's very excited about what Winston is doing.
She's also expecting their third child
and she's really thinking about sort of domestic things, what is to come.
They had no idea then what would come,
what suffering they would go through.
They were naive.
My darling, I much wish I were with you during these anxious,
I know how you are feeling,
tingling with life to the tips of your fingers.
Surely every hour of delay must make the forces of peace more powerful.
It would be a wicked war. Your loving Clemmie.
During the July crisis and leading up to the outbreak of war,
Churchill has, very naturally,
been at the forefront of all political decision-making.
He controls Britain's only first-class strategic instrument,
the Royal Navy,
the thing that is going to have to control the world, if war breaks out,
and getting it into the right place at the right time, at the outbreak
of war, is absolutely critical, so the timing is everything.
On July 28, the First Fleet was concentrated at Portland,
far from its war station at Scapa Flow
in the North Sea, where it could blockade Germany.
A peace-time mobilisation risked provoking Germany,
yet Churchill gambled, ordering the Fleet to slip back secretly
through the Dover Straits at night.
An exultant First Lord had made the Fleet "ready for war".
Diplomatic ultimatums were set to expire at 11pm on August 4.
Cat, dear, it is all up.
Germany has quenched the last hopes of peace.
The world has gone mad, and we must look after ourselves
and our friends.
At the sound of Big Ben, it was Churchill who launched Britain
into war, with a signal sent to fleets across the globe.
"Admiralty to all ships - commence hostilities, at once, with Germany."
The only Cabinet member with experience of war,
he could not fail to imagine greater glories ahead.
Churchill left to brief the senior colleagues most aware
of his mix of genius and egotism.
Prime Minister Herbert Asquith was still sitting in grave silence,
together with David Lloyd George,
when the First Lord crashed noisily in.
The Chancellor noted with disquiet that Churchill seemed
"a really happy man".
In some ways, he is the Churchill of the Second World War
and even after - he's just a very young,
rather green version of that Churchill. He's just quite immature,
politically, and he's going to learn some very interesting lessons.
The First World War will destroy the world that he grew up in,
it will destroy the social order that he's familiar with,
it will destroy the kinds of ambitions that he might have had.
That August, the Navy successfully ferried
the British Expeditionary Force, without loss, to war in France.
But Churchill's mood had changed -
the Navy's passive blockade strategy seemed almost to bore him.
The former Hussar was restless, yearning for action.
Clementine was troubled by his impatient state of mind.
Frequent trips to Army headquarters in France
were irritating his colleagues.
She begins to see in this time, in Winston, a war lust
and she begins to see that he needs some sort of containing,
some sort of restraint.
I think she realises, at this stage, that there's nobody else
who's going to do that, and so very subtly and quietly in her letters,
she begins to, kind of, draw attention to it and warn him.
Yet Churchill was more than a "death or glory" Hussar -
he was a sophisticated thinker on the science of war.
Although Churchill had taken part in the last cavalry charge
of the British Army at Omdurman,
although he was a Victorian figure,
he was a very modern military thinker.
He understood the importance of exploring,
of exploiting, science, technology.
He saw that wars were going to be won by a combination of arms,
manoeuvre on land, sea power and air power.
This passion for military technology had seen both the Navy -
and Churchill himself - take to the skies.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Royal Navy
is the world's leading technological fighting force.
It masters all of the new technologies.
When the aeroplane comes along, the Navy very quickly works out
this is going to be an asset, it's going to allow you to scout,
it's going to allow you to fly over the land from the sea.
Churchill himself is a great enthusiast for aviation,
but it turns out, a very poor pilot.
He manages to crash and he's persuaded not to try to learn
ever again, so other people do the flying.
But Churchill can see the potential
and he's prepared to back the junior officers who have these enthusiasms.
His airmen gave the First Lord a ticket to the land war in France.
In September, the Navy won responsibility
for the aerial defence of Britain against Zeppelin airships.
Churchill's obviously wanting to get more involved in the land battle,
that's where the action is.
He's got the excuse of sending over the Royal Naval Air Service,
and they're actually sent out across to Dunkirk,
where they have the excuse to be there,
because the Royal Naval Air Service,
the planes, can go and bomb the German Zeppelins
which might bomb our ships. There's a reason for doing it.
That autumn, Navy pilots launched the first-ever bombing raids
on Germany, targeting Zeppelin air sheds in Dusseldorf and Cologne.
The "Dunkirk Circus" also allowed Churchill to deploy
another mechanised unit, the dashing squadron of Naval Armoured Cars.
He's getting reports back that, actually, with this war of movement
that's still going on, we need some armoured cars,
to protect our air force base.
And they go on, sort of, almost like buccaneering patrols,
to try and bump into the enemy
and to try and shoot up some German columns advancing, etc.
So they have machine guns fitted -
he sees the value of a mobile armoured vehicle.
Yet, as the duelling armies raced westward,
it was the First Lord himself who now made
a highly-controversial intervention.
The Belgian city of Antwerp was under siege.
A protective chain of forts ringed a port commanding a key position
on the Allied left flank.
Yet, German howitzers were smashing these redoubts one by one.
If Antwerp held, the German advance in the north would stall.
The Germans would simply not be able to get into northern France,
and their whole campaign would fail at that point.
Churchill instinctively puts his finger on the spot
and he says we must do something about this.
On October 3, Churchill arrived in "Fortress Antwerp",
on an urgent fact-finding mission.
The Belgians were poised to surrender,
leaving open the road to the Channel ports.
Alarmed, Churchill called for a defiant last stand.
And he would stay on to lead their resistance.
The First Lord would not fight alone.
He summoned Marines and his "private army",
the Royal Naval Division.
He's actually involved in sending troops from Dunkirk up to Antwerp,
again to help reinforce the Belgians,
and he uses buses to do this -
he actually commissions 100 buses from London.
They're driven down to the coast, taken across,
and he does this quickly. That's the thing about Churchill -
he gets things to happen relatively quickly, for the First World War.
Consisting of fresh-faced volunteers and surplus sailors,
this brand-new infantry force was neither trained nor equipped.
But they were rushed to the front line.
Here, journalists observed Churchill, too,
smoking large cigars under a rain of shrapnel.
In this supercharged state, the warrior over-reached himself.
What happens next, however,
is that he, rather excitedly, sends a telegram back to London,
saying that he wants to, in effect,
give up his government post and take command
of the British Forces there.
Oh, and by the way, can he be a general?
And the very idea of General Churchill carrying out
this role in Antwerp just provokes laughter among his colleagues,
and I suspect they're laughing AT him, not laughing WITH him.
On October 10th, Antwerp finally capitulated.
Six days had been won.
But there was a price to pay.
Over 1,000 of his new soldiers were left stranded.
Fleeing into neutral Holland,
they were interned for the rest of the war.
Some hailed him a hero.
But a hostile press branded Churchill a reckless adventurer,
and his Antwerp mission a blunder.
Churchill's neither a hero nor a buffoon over Antwerp.
It was a sensible idea
and actually, it probably did make a bit of a difference,
but Churchill has a very unfortunate habit
of making himself look foolish, as a result,
and he does look foolish in the eyes of his peers.
Clementine was anxious,
knowing Churchill's military ardour had powerful unseen roots.
Both believed he was destined to achieve greatness.
Yet, Churchill harboured boyish dreams of emulating the epic deeds
of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough.
For Churchill, there's an acute consciousness of destiny.
There's an acute consciousness of a man
who really should achieve greatness.
His ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough had a meteoric
and highly-successful career, leading to the construction
of his vast palace,
far larger than any King of England has ever lived in,
as a prize for his war-winning efforts.
And Churchill was born in this house
and he grew up there acutely conscious of that legacy.
So he's very much aware that he stands in a family tradition.
He was acutely conscious of being Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill -
these were important names.
Early 1915 would see the warlord seduced by a daring idea
which inflamed this sense of destiny.
He told Lloyd George that, if it worked,
he would be "the biggest man in Europe".
But he was hurtling toward the greatest disaster of his life.
Churchill was an egomaniac, there's no doubt about it.
He possessed enormous faith in himself and self-confidence
and an almost manic energy.
He was driven.
He had endless ideas, a fertile mind,
but he sometimes found it rather difficult to work out
what was a good idea and what was a bad idea.
By Christmas 1914, a scar of trenches ripped across Europe
from the Alps to the sea, locking armies in a murderous stalemate.
Churchill applied his prodigious imagination
to the breaking of the deadlock.
"My dear Prime Minister,
"are there not other alternatives
"than sending our armies to chew barbed wire in Flanders?
"Further, can not the power of the Navy be brought more directly
"to bear upon the enemy?
"Ought we not to engage him on new frontiers?"
Churchill is still very excited - he loves war.
You know, he's not a cruel man, but, nonetheless, he finds war
to be tremendously exciting,
and the Royal Navy had swept enemy ships from the seas.
And from that point onwards, it's a slow, grinding campaign
of starving the Germans into submission, and he longs for action.
He's throwing out ideas left, right and centre,
memoranda are flowing out from his office.
You would have thought he'd had enough to do running the Royal Navy,
but actually he wants to really run the entire war himself.
Early 1915 saw strange contraptions called "Winston's Follies"
emerge from engineering sheds.
Struck by the success of his armoured cars,
the Navy head was sponsoring
the development of a trench-crossing machine or land ship.
We have been sending men forward,
trying to break through the barbed wire,
trying to attack German positions,
and they are, literally, at times, getting mown down.
So what are we going to do to save those men's lives?
Let's investigate. Could we use things like steam engines
to actually crush down the wire?
Now, part of those experiments,
he actually gets a small tracked truck
on Horse Guards Parade,
and it's filled through half a tonne of bricks.
And First Lord of the Admiralty actually is there
on Horse Guards Parade pushing this thing
and understanding that tracks are really the way
that you can get across awkward ground
and they've fantastic mobility.
Yet his imagination was fired by a dazzling alternative
to costly trench war in the west.
The aim was to knock Germany's eastern ally,
the Ottoman Turks, out of the war.
Churchill had a very romantic view of war,
and the Western Front simply didn't match up to that.
Gallipoli, this great Napoleonic strategic stroke
which could win the war,
I think very much played to Churchill's sense
of not only what warfare should be like,
but where his position in warfare lay.
This was his chance to emulate his great ancestor,
the 1st Duke of Marlborough,
by bringing off a war-winning, strategically brilliant stroke.
The plan envisaged the Fleet running the gauntlet
of the narrow Dardanelle Straits.
The Army would occupy the Gallipoli peninsula,
while the Navy stormed on to the glittering prize of Constantinople.
This is strategic thinking on a very large scale
and, in that sense, I think, you know,
Churchill is showing a great deal of imagination.
Unfortunately, the planning was, I think,
far beyond the capability of the British
to put into practice in 1915.
Decision-making in Whitehall was muddled.
Lord Kitchener at the War Office delayed badly
over the despatch of his Armies.
But Churchill's zeal and enthusiasm swept doubts aside.
That's the paradox of Churchill.
Someone who was brilliant insightful and energetic, but at the same time
sometimes reckless and quite often blind to the mistakes
that he was making, until it was too late to do anything about them.
In early spring, the Admiralty faced a choice -
to wait for Kitchener's armies, or to strike fast with ships alone.
Churchill chose to gamble and sent the Fleet in.
The Naval attack on the Dardanelles
was a very difficult operation of war.
It involved steaming up a very narrow passage under direct gunfire
from heavy and medium-calibre guns
and through minefields, with a very strong current
running against the ships trying to get up the Straits.
Churchill says we must press on, we must push this attack far faster,
we must really go for a... a high-risk offensive operation,
directly into the main waterway and to use the whole Fleet.
And three battleships were sunk - one French, two British -
running into minefields
and, from that point on, the Naval offensive stalled.
The abortive naval assault saw the Turks rush reinforcements
to the peninsula.
Kitchener's armies finally arrived,
but the landings he planned at Anzac Cove, Helles and later at Suvla
all met with huge loss of life.
And bloody trench war resumed.
His brother, Major Jack Churchill, was there,
and his accounts of heroism and sacrifice
fuelled Churchill's frustration.
Churchill could see the disaster unfolding before his eyes.
The men who'd been appointed to command the Dardanelles operation
were a series of incompetents, at best, or men who simply lacked
experience and confidence, and yet he couldn't do anything about that.
He had to stand by on the sidelines
and watch this awful mess deteriorate.
His frustration was enormous, but he had set it in motion and eventually
he had to pay the political price for the failure at Gallipoli.
Tragic events in the Mediterranean were not the immediate cause
of Churchill's downfall.
The man responsible was a close friend
and father figure inside the Admiralty...
..Lord Jacky Fisher.
This 74-year old Naval legend had been brought back
from retirement to lead the Navy in October, 1914.
The two men were kindred spirits.
But Navy insiders like Admiral Beatty foresaw
a messy clash of egos.
One old, wily and of vast experience.
One young, self-assertive, with a great self-satisfaction,
but unstable. They cannot work together.
They cannot both run the show.
These are two men who are simply at opposite ends of every spectrum.
Churchill is a young, dynamic politician
who wants to run the Navy like an Admiral,
and Fisher is an elderly, astute and very experienced Admiral
who wants to run the Navy like a politician,
and both of them actually wanted each other's job.
By April 1915, Fisher had cold feet about both the Dardanelles operation
and an interfering, autocratic First Lord.
Tensions evident in letters held in Churchill College, Cambridge.
What we have here is a wonderful exchange of letters,
which I think captures the deteriorating relationship
between Admiral Fisher and Winston Churchill.
Here you can see that Fisher has written,
"Damn the Dardanelles! They'll be our grave!"
And at the bottom, he signs off,
"Procrastinations, vacillations, Antwerps."
How did Churchill respond on receiving letters like this?
Well, I think you can see his gut reaction here,
in this handwritten note, which he's addressed at the top
to the First Sea Lord, 8th April 1915, quoting Napoleon,
"We are defeated at sea because our admirals have learned -
"where I know not - that war can be made without running risks."
On May 15, Lord Fisher went missing from the Admiralty.
Fisher, ultimately, has had enough and he resigns
and writes a big resignation letter
in which he demands that they get rid of Churchill,
that he be allowed to essentially run the Navy,
and he sets out a huge, kind of, list of...
"You must do exactly as I tell you,
"because I'm the only man who can win the war."
And they call his bluff.
Fisher was out.
But he had badly damaged Asquith's already teetering government.
The Conservative opposition scented blood
and pressed for a share in government.
Churchill was in acute danger.
For he was the "Blenheim rat", the "renegade" and "class traitor"
who had deserted the Tories to join the ruling Liberals in 1904.
That weekend, the Churchill's journeyed
to Asquith's Thames-side home, to plead for his job.
But the game was up.
Within days, Asquith would agree to lead a coalition.
After the four years they called a "golden age",
the Churchills would leave Admiralty House.
He was sacked. Clementine leapt fiercely to her husband's defence.
"My dear Mr Asquith, if you throw Winston overboard,
"you will be committing an act of weakness
"and your coalition government will not be as formidable a war machine.
"Winston may, in your eyes, have faults,
"but he has the supreme quality which I venture to say
"very few of your present, or future cabinet, possess -
"the power, the imagination and the deadliness to fight Germany."
That's what she says to the Prime Minister - you are weak.
She talks about how wonderful Winston is,
but basically, she's saying, you are a weak man,
and that is devastating, I think, it's a devastating thing to do.
It potentially ruptures their relationship,
but it shows that she's got claws and she will fight for him.
As it happens, it's Margot who really takes issue with her.
She calls Clementine "a fish wife".
She describes her as having "the soul of a servant".
But no, she does not have the soul of a servant -
she's fighting for her man.
Obsessed with the Dardanelles,
Churchill accepted a lowly government post,
hoping in vain to influence policy.
Privately, he expressed shock and despair.
I am the victim of a political intrigue. I am finished.
Finished in respect of all I care for - the waging of war,
the defeat of the Germans.
The memory of his famous father Randolph's own political downfall
now weighed heavily.
Now, that, of course, made the fall that Winston himself suffered
in the wake of the Dardanelles disaster
all the more awful and all the more bitter.
It was very difficult for him to see the way back,
and he felt that, not only had he failed,
but he'd confirmed everyone's view of the Churchills,
that they were bound to fail.
First Randolph and then Winston - it was like a family curse.
And Churchill thrashed around in desperation,
wondering how could he find a way back?
The Churchills retired to Hoe Farm,
a weekend retreat, to lick their wounds.
Clementine recognised that her husband was battling
with dark inner demons.
People tend to talk about Churchill's "black dog".
He's gone from being at the centre
to being a, sort of, mere observer of events,
and I think it's that that he finds incredibly difficult.
I think it does hit him like a hammer blow,
but another great Churchillian trait is his capacity
to recover from these seemingly, sort of, knockout blows,
and it's interesting to look at how he does that
and the strategies he uses.
You can see him looking around at ways in which to fill the void
that has been created in his life,
and one of the things that he seeks solace in is painting.
Churchill came across painting as a form of enjoyment,
relaxation and almost therapy.
One of his very first paintings is the farm itself, Hoe Farm.
Churchill often painted himself into his paintings later,
but there's one right near the beginning of his career,
that he actually painted during the First World War.
And it's a very intense, full sort of frontal look at himself
and it's very dark and very unusual,
because the rest of his paintings are almost entirely
colourful, sunshine scenes,
but this is a real psychological sketch of himself,
at a time when he was obviously feeling very wretched.
That summer, contemplating a visit to the warzone,
Churchill wrote Clementine an intimate letter,
to be opened in the event of his death.
"Do not grieve for me too much.
"I am a spirit confident in my rights.
"Death is only an incident
"and not the most important one which happens to us.
"On the whole - and especially since I met you, my darling one -
"I have been happy.
"If there is another place, I shall be on the lookout for you.
"In the meantime, look forward, feel free,
"rejoice in life,
"cherish the children
"and guard my memory."
Yet, Churchill's reputation was falling to its nadir.
A December evacuation from Gallipoli would mark total Allied defeat,
at a cost of 53,000 dead.
The campaign's loudest champion
was publicly denigrated
as the man solely responsible.
The disappointment that he felt, when it failed, was more
than simply, "This is a failed campaign."
This got to his very soul.
This was, I think, his chance,
he thought, to become a great warlord,
and it hadn't happened.
And to the end of his days, he resented that,
and I think he thought that his chance for glory
in the First World War had passed him by.
For decades, Churchill would be taunted by the cry,
"Remember the Dardanelles!".
Clementine feared that he would die of grief.
This is a man who's been at the centre of government
for close on a decade, by this stage,
and suddenly, to be pushed to the sidelines,
where he could write as many memoranda as he liked
but no-one paid any attention to them, was deeply wounding to him.
In November, he could bear political impotence no more -
his response was typically audacious.
He already held a commission with the Oxfordshire Hussars,
a territorial regiment.
Major Churchill volunteered for "death or glory" in the trenches.
"My dear Asquith, I ask you to submit my resignation to the King.
"I'm an officer and I place myself unreservedly at the disposal
"of the military authorities,
"observing that my regiment is in France.
"I have a clear conscience.
"Time will vindicate my administration of the Admiralty.
"With much respect and unaltered personal friendship,
"I bid you goodbye."
On November 18th, Churchill joined the troop train to Boulogne.
Clementine's first letters were raw
with the anguish felt by every soldier's wife.
"My darling Winston.
"I long for news of you.
"Although it's only a few miles,
"you seem to me as far away as the stars,
"lost among a million khaki figures.
"Write to me, Winston.
"I want a letter from you badly."
Both would write, almost daily.
And their passionate correspondence sustained them
through his perilous days on the Western Front.
Within days of his arrival, Churchill had experienced
the first of numerous close encounters with death.
"Yesterday, a curious thing happened.
"A telegram arrived that the corps commander wished to see me.
"I thought it rather a strong order to bring me
"out of the trenches by daylight - a three-miles walk.
"Anyhow, I had no choice.
"I arrived muddy, wet and sweating at the rendezvous.
"You may imagine how I abused to myself the complacency
"of this general dragging me about in the rain and the mud for nothing.
"And then I learned that a quarter of an hour after I had left,
"the dugout in which I was living had been struck
"by a shell, which burst a few feet from where
"I would have been sitting, killing the mess orderly who was inside.
"When I saw the ruin, I was not so angry with the general after all.
"Now, see from this how vain it is to worry about things.
"It is all chance or destiny.
"One must yield oneself simply and naturally to the mood of the game."
Clementine's anxieties were not assuaged.
But her husband was upbeat, walking in the footsteps of the Great Duke.
"My dearest soul" - this is what the Great Duke of Marlborough
"used to write from the Low Countries to HIS Cat."
Marlborough's "Cat" was Sarah Churchill,
a formidable political operator in the 18th-century corridors of power.
Yet Clementine was a very different wife,
finding it noble and romantic
that her husband was serving as a mid-ranking officer.
The Daily Mail rings me up and asks
if I have had any news from "Major Churchill".
"Major Churchill" has a strange sound,
but I am prouder of this title than of any other.
Churchill revealed he was being schooled in trench warfare
by the Grenadier Guards, a regiment the Great Duke himself had led.
All is very well arranged.
I saw Lord Cavan, to whom I said,
"I should regard it as a very great honour
"to go into the line with the Guards,"
to which he replied, "We shall be proud to have you."
The Army is willing to receive me back as the prodigal son.
I am very happy here.
But these letters did not tell the whole story.
I think it would be difficult to imagine a more difficult place
for Churchill the politician, the outsider,
the peripatetic adventurer, to embrace the First World War
than with the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards.
The Guards' reputation is for ruthless discipline,
professionalism, attention to detail.
Not only was this a guy, a politician, an outsider,
coming to a close-knit regiment of professional soldiers,
but he's also everything
that, culturally, they would have been suspicious of.
He's ambitious, he doesn't take well to authority,
the officers in the Guards battalion,
one suspects, would have been very, very suspicious and hostile to him.
Colonel Jeffreys, the battalion commander,
he's already got a fearsome reputation,
even for a commander of a Guards battalion,
and I think he says something wonderfully cold
on their first meeting, like,
"Just so you know, we didn't ask to have you sent here."
Arriving with excess kit, the newcomer was put firmly his place.
A batman delivered the revised allocation to his dugout -
a pair of socks and a shaving kit.
Sir John French, Commander of the British Army, now intervened.
He was a close personal friend
and keen that Churchill command a brigade.
Clementine was unconvinced, fearing he would lose newly won respect
if he became a "Chateau General" so quickly.
What she knows and understands,
in a way that he just doesn't quite appreciate,
is that at home, that would be seen as just going too far, too quickly.
He's already got a reputation for being a little bit too ambitious,
a little bit too egotistical - he is more important than anybody else.
She knows that if he were to accept that promotion,
it would be negative.
That December, Churchill was on tenterhooks -
awaiting confirmation of his rank
whilst flitting between the trenches and Allied HQ.
General Fayolle gave him a blue helmet that he wore with pride.
Sir John French's offer of a British general's uniform soon followed.
"My darling, I am to be given command
"of the 56th Brigade in the 19th Division.
"Please order another khaki tunic for me as Brigadier General.
"Let the pockets be less baggy than the other two."
Yet French was in trouble.
Failure at the recent Battle of Loos saw him recalled
by Asquith to London to be dismissed.
"My darling one, I am back here at GHQ.
"I don't know what effect this change of command
"will produce on my local fortunes.
"In the Grenadiers, the opinion is that I am to have a division."
Two letters on the same day capture the moments
when hopes of a General Churchill evaporated.
"I reopen my letter to say that French has telephoned from London.
"The PM has written to him that I am not to have a brigade
"but a battalion.
"You should cancel the order for the tunic."
Field Marshal Sir John French, a great friend of Churchill's,
had been replaced by General, as he was then, Sir Douglas Haig.
And Haig had a much more realistic view, I think,
of Churchill's abilities. And he insisted that,
first of all, he win his spurs, as it was,
by commanding a battalion.
His first trench experiences encouraged Churchill
to pen a memorandum brimming with new tactical ideas...
..including a vision of a mass attack of his land ships.
Variants of the offensive. One, attack by armour.
The cutting of the enemy's wire and the general domination
of his firing line can be effected by engines of this character.
None should be used until all can be used at once. Above all, surprise!
But no-one was listening to a yesterday's man.
Churchill now faced a searching test of character -
the command of men in battle.
On January 4, 1916, Lieutenant Colonel Churchill took command
of the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers.
Well, he gets off to a disastrous start
with 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers. His own sense of importance
and history, I think, overtakes him. He's a cavalry officer,
with no experience of infantry drill,
he gives all the wrong words of commands.
The private soldiers haven't got a clue what to do, his junior officers
who are already probably ill-disposed towards his presence
are having to whisper in his ear. I mean, he makes a fool of himself,
there is no two ways about it.
What's so interesting is that, having got off to this awkward start
he turns it around, and he turns it around very quickly.
They were stationed by the small Belgian town the Tommies called
Plug Street, on the southern part of the Ypres Salient.
This was a time, early 1916,
on a front, Plug Street, which was not an active one.
He did not command in a major battle, this was trench holding.
That was nasty enough, that was dangerous enough,
but it's a very different thing than leading men over the top.
As MP for Dundee, Churchill was proud to join a Scottish regiment,
but he was horrified by what they had experienced at Loos.
CHURCHILL: It fought with the greatest gallantry in the big battle
and was torn to pieces.
More than half the men and three quarters of the officers
were shot and these terrible gaps have been filled up
by quite young, inexperienced officers.
His first pep talk signalled the arrival
of an unconventional commander.
Laugh a little and teach your men to laugh.
Show good humour under fire.
War is a game played with a smile.
If you can not smile, grin.
If you can not grin, then stay out of the way until you can.
And now, gentlemen, we shall make war on the lice!
This is an example of Churchill as a, sort of, free-thinker.
Recognising what's important that other people haven't recognised.
And lice were misery in the trenches. You think of the shelling
and the sniping and the danger, but actually, what gets a soldier down,
on a day-to-day basis, is the mud and the cold and the hunger
and the discomfort and, in recognising that,
here was something that could be targeted with a bit of extra work,
Churchill's actually showing an incredible compassion to his men,
and they liked it
and, apparently, for the rest of the war, 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers
were one of the least lice-plagued battalions in the army.
Immersing himself enthusiastically in trench life,
the new Colonel was attentive to the needs of his men.
He commands a battalion almost as though you'd
expect him to command a platoon.
This is probably the first time that Churchill's really
in a front line of a conflict, in command
and what is interesting is the Churchill that comes out,
the Churchill that shines through in those circumstances
is not so much the ambitious Churchill,
the Churchill that rubs people up the wrong way,
it is a much more caring, much more focused,
much more sensitive Churchill, if you will, and
that's what makes him a very good commander in the First World War.
It's almost as though, in the trenches,
surrounded with the responsibility, and it must be a huge responsibility
for a battalion of men, the proximity of death,
the fact that your horizons have really narrowed.
He's forgotten his political ambitions.
For once, he doesn't have half an eye on Westminster,
even if it's only briefly,
and what comes out is this very impressive Churchill.
He was a decidedly eccentric commander.
You know, there are stories of him, for example,
going out into no-man's land on a patrol,
making all sorts of noise in doing so,
lying on his electric torch and thus switching it on and,
you know, basically giving a real target for the enemy,
but there's no doubt at all that Churchill, I think, proved to be
a very effective battalion commander.
Demands for extra tuck for his mess added to the burdens
of a busy mother of three.
"About food, the sorts of things I want you to send me are these -
"large slabs of corned beef,
"Stilton cheeses, cream, hams,
"sardines, dried fruits.
"You might almost try a big beef steak pie,
"but not tinned grouse, the simpler the better
"and substantial, too, for our ration meat is tough and tasteless.
"Peach brandy seems to be a hopeful feature in the liquor department.
"I fear you find me very expensive to keep."
The Western Front offered a diversion
from ugly political intrigues.
But Churchill still needed his Sapient Cat
to be his eyes and ears in Westminster.
CHURCHILL: Don't neglect these matters,
I have no-one but you to act for me.
Keep in touch with the Government.
Show complete confidence in our fortunes.
Hold your head very high.
When you look at the role that Clementine Churchill is playing
during this period, she really is acting as an anchor.
She is listening out for how he is being perceived in the newspapers,
but also amongst her contemporaries and also in high political circles.
She's guarding his reputation very carefully,
she's alerting him to potential dangers,
to things that she thinks that he has missed,
and she is, of course, also prepared to take up the cudgel
and absolutely to defend his reputation.
My darling, today I lunched with Lloyd George.
Now don't scold your Cat too much for being a hermit.
Here, in two days I have hobnobbed with Montague, Birrell,
Lloyd George, and a South African potentate. Please send me home
the Distinguished Conduct Medal at once and much praise.
Clementine had volunteered to help the YMCA organise workers canteens
in some of the new munitions factories
set up to meet the voracious demand for shells.
She's involved in, I think, about nine,
some of which have 500 people to feed.
She has to open them, she has to visit them. She talks a lot about
the difficulties in getting there, the trains.
All this is going on whilst he is asking her
to, basically, be Winston Churchill at home.
The Munitions Minister was David Lloyd George,
the one dynamic star in a lacklustre coalition.
Clementine was well placed to monitor his steady rise.
Trench life settled into a pattern of dull routine
and sudden danger.
"My darling, I take up my pen to send you my daily note.
"At six, I went round my trenches
"and was saluted on my doorstep by a very sulky bullet.
"All the morning, I laboured in the small business of the battalion
"and dealt with my company commanders
"and sent off the numerous reports for which our superiors clamour.
"I send you some copies of the photo
"of Archie and I, taken at Armentieres.
"I never expected to be so completely involved
"in the military machine."
As winter turned to spring,
old political instincts began to reawaken.
He's genuinely interested,
but, of course, the challenges you face in commanding a battalion
on the Western Front are not quite the same as running a Navy or
running a government department, and again, I think you can gradually see
over the next five months, politics and Whitehall luring him back in.
The loss of air superiority in the skies above Plug Street
further inflamed irritation with weak political leadership.
-Air fights have been going on overhead this morning.
Since I left the Admiralty, the whole naval wing has been let down
and all previous ascendency has been dissipated.
War is action, energy, hazard,
these sheep only want to browse among the daisies.
Clementine knew a political return would be dangerously premature.
My own darling, patience is the only grace you need.
As sure as day follows night, you will come into your own again.
But a disorientated Churchill did not listen.
Granted ten days home leave in early March,
his next political humiliation was to be self-inflicted.
The former First Lord was expected at the National Liberal Club,
to unveil a new portrait of himself.
But he never showed up.
He'd fallen in with a group of fellow dissidents,
eager to plot the downfall of Asquith.
There's no glory to be won on the Western Front,
it's a miserable, dirty business,
hiding in a trench with a French tin hat on.
He can't restore his reputation by fighting,
and eventually, he comes back to London and there,
almost miraculously, he rebuilds his relationship with Jacky Fisher.
Clementine was horrified that her husband was drawn once again
to the admiral who had destroyed his career.
Fisher took advantage of Churchill's troubled state of mind,
with wild talk of "destiny" and Churchill becoming Prime Minister.
On March 7, Churchill went to Parliament to make a speech
critical of the Admiralty's performance.
Its conclusion stunned the House.
I urge the First Lord of the Admiralty without delay
to fortify himself.
To vitalise and animate his board of Admiralty,
by recalling Lord Fisher to his post as First Sea Lord.
SHOUTING AND HECKLING
An astonishing appeal for the return of Fisher
was met with derision and scorn.
Margot Asquith's waspish verdict reflected a wider belief
that Churchill remained impulsive and lacking in statesmanship.
I hope and believe Winston will never be forgiven
his yesterday's speeches.
He is a hound of the lowest sense of political honour,
a fool of the lowest judgement, and contemptible.
A contrite Churchill returned to Plug Street.
He had felt keenly the hostility and mistrust
his wife had warned of, and acknowledged her loving support.
"My dearest soul,
"You have seen me very weak and foolish
"and mentally infirm this week.
"Dual obligations, both honourable, both weighty have rent me.
"I can not tell you how sweet and steadfast you have been
"through all my hesitations and perplexity."
Yet bonds of trust were being forged with his Fusiliers.
His indifference to danger was a constant inspiration.
Captain Andrew Gibb recalled an invitation
to the fire-step during a fierce artillery duel.
We felt the wind and swish of several whizz-bangs
flying past our heads.
Then I heard Winston say, in a dreamy, far away voice,
"Do you like war?"
There was no such thing as fear in him.
It is a feature that seems to be common to great military commanders.
It's not fearlessness as such,
but it's an ability to be unperturbed by
the personal danger of the situation they might be in.
It inspires troops if they see someone who is,
seems to be impervious to danger.
It's that great thing of leadership by example.
Also, soldiers want to be led by someone who has an air
of invincibility and more than one person observes of Churchill that
he's just one of those guys that you knew he was going to get through
and you want to be close to people like that.
Her advice to stay in the trenches tormented Clementine.
This is a woman who knows he is under great risk every day.
People are dying, he could be the next person,
but she urges him to stay.
She urges him to stay because she knows, actually,
his political career is more important to him than his life.
But her belief in his destiny gave him solace.
"My darling, own dear Winston, don't be vexed.
"I know barring all tragic accidents that someday you will have
"a great and commanding position in this country.
"You will be held in the people's hearts and in their respect."
Churchill ventured out around 40 times into no-man's land
to inspect the wire and forward listening posts.
But the stress of events now left Clementine feeling exhausted...
My darling, these grave anxieties are very wearing.
When next I see you, I hope there will be
a little time for us both alone.
We are still young, but time flies,
stealing love away and leaving only friendship,
which is very peaceful, but not stimulating or warming.
-Oh, my darling, do not write of friendship to me.
I love you more each month that passes
and feel the need of you and all your beauty.
I, too, feel, sometimes, the longing for rest and peace.
So much effort, so many years of ceaseless fighting
makes my older mind turn for the first time, I think,
to other things than action.
She is at her low, she's been his rock for a very long time.
Perhaps because they've been so open with each other,
she is worried about their more romantic side.
She's worried that they will just become friends.
She's worried that time is moving on
and she wants some sort of reassurance from him.
In fact, it's probably the only time that she really asks
for reassurance. Thankfully, he gives it to her immediately.
No chance of just being friends, girl.
The toll inflicted by even trench holding troubled Churchill.
To ward off all his frustrations, he surprised his comrades...
..by starting to paint.
"From our farm I watched yesterday afternoon
"the shelling of the little town whose name I can not mention.
"Three of our men who were strolling in the town were hit, one fatally.
"In the last two days of rest, I have lost eight men.
"I'm now reduced to under 680 men instead of 1,000."
It was 6th Battalion's numerical weakness,
which brought the Plug Street days to an end.
An amalgamation in May allowed him to return home...
..with honour intact.
"My darling, the Germans have just fired 30 shells at our farm
"hitting it four times, but no-one has been hurt.
"This is, I trust, a parting salute."
Flanders had schooled Churchill in the realities of trench war.
Haig and the generals were committed to a war of attrition by men.
Churchill deemed this killing game futile.
He believed in attrition by metal and machines.
Fortified by this sense of purpose,
he resumed political battles at home.
Churchill returned to Clementine, shorn of vain dreams of glory.
He was an outcast still.
Clementine urged stoic resolve through difficult days.
War is a terrible searcher of character.
One must try to plod and persevere and absolutely stamp self out!
The angry scapegoat had to clear his name over the Dardanelles.
He pressed Asquith to publish the full facts
and a Commission of Inquiry was set up.
But he would be made to wait nearly a year for its verdict.
Churchill was not used to waiting.
He must have found this an incredibly, sort of frustrating time
because he's neither one thing or the other, at this point.
He is no longer a man of strategy,
he's no longer a man of action.
This was the greatest crisis to have beset the British nation
for hundreds of years. And living at the heart of great events,
believing that it was his destiny to play a role in those great events
and not being able to do so
must have been an enormous challenge for him.
Parliament saw him establish a reputation as a soldiers' friend
and leading critic of the generals.
When Churchill gets back to London, he's at a loose end and
he's a man of such huge energy that because he doesn't actually have
a proper job to do, he's a pretty effective and annoying gadfly.
He begins to criticise British high command
and, to some extent, the Government.
I do not see how we are to avoid being thrown back on those dismal
processes of waste and slaughter which are called attrition.
-Machines save life!
Machine power is a substitute for manpower.
Brains will save blood.
Newspaper headlines in autumn 1916
announced the baptism of his landships
in the battle of the Somme,
but there was no mass attack.
Only 50 tanks were actually used
and they're not actually that successful.
Churchill and a number of other people
that are enthusiasts for the tank think, "What a waste,
"you've given away the secret,"
and it was kept as a brilliant secret from the Germans
"and you've shown your hand," as it were.
They wanted many more to be used in a massive initial tank attack.
He yearned for war direction...
..and all hopes were invested in the "Wizard", Lloyd George,
who took over at the War Office after the death of Lord Kitchener.
He thought that, with Lloyd George in the Cabinet, a friend,
a colleague in arms, someone who had influence,
that his return was imminent.
But it was not to be,
and he expressed his frustrations in a letter to his brother Jack.
"Is it not damnable that I should be denied all real scope
"to serve this country?
"Great instability prevails
"and at any moment a situation favourable to me might come.
"Meanwhile Asquith reigns, supine, sodden and supreme.
"Though my life is full of comfort, pleasure and prosperity,
"I writhe hourly not to be able to get my teeth effectively
"into the Bosch. Jack, my dear, I am learning to hate!"
By winter, the pressure for a change in leadership
was becoming irresistible.
Lloyd George's strengths are that he has now got a reputation
as a figure of great energy and dynamism,
"a man of push and go",
to use his own phrase about the kind of people
that he wanted in Government. Therefore,
although many Conservatives continued to distrust him,
they certainly saw him as a better alternative
than Asquith, who they saw as weak and ineffectual.
On December 5th, Lloyd George was finally ready to topple Asquith,
with the backing of the Conservatives.
Churchill's hopes soared that night when, relaxing at a Turkish bath,
he was unexpectedly invited to a dinner
attended by Lloyd George himself.
But he had badly misread the signals.
A mutual friend was given the unhappy task
of deflating his dreams.
These are the exact words I used.
"The new Government will be very well disposed towards you,
"all your friends will be there."
He suddenly felt he had been duped
and he blazed into righteous anger.
With that, Churchill walked out into the street.
He later described that as the hardest moment of his life.
The disparity between his high hopes and the crushing of them
and a sensible calculation might well have told him
that Lloyd George was not yet politically strong enough
to take that risk of bringing him back into the Government.
Yet his own belief in himself
had overcome his more rational judgement.
Yet, this latest of so many crushing humiliations since May 1915
was also the last.
The spring of 1917 saw the Churchills buy Lullenden Manor.
Here, they celebrated together the largely positive findings
of the Dardanelles inquiry.
Dark developments in the war further loosened the chains of exile.
The Germans take the decision to defeat the British
by sinking merchant shipping in the Atlantic,
cutting the so-called Atlantic lifeline,
seeking to starve Britain to submission.
By the spring of 1917, Britain is running out of food
and actually, we reach the point in which Britain
appears to be in real danger of losing the war at sea,
even though they're holding their own at land,
and it's against that background
that Lloyd George takes the risk in the summer of 1917
of re-introducing Churchill into government.
Lloyd George needed his friend's spirit
and imagination at a time of national peril.
Ignoring fierce Tory protests,
the Prime Minister summoned him back in July.
Despite being in coalition with the Conservatives
he gets Churchill back, he makes it a political priority,
because he knows this is a man with energy, drive, vision.
He's exactly the kind of man that he's picking out of industry.
Lloyd George is creating a meritocratic Cabinet
of go-getters, and Churchill is one of those key figures.
He was excluded from the War Cabinet and policy-making.
His job was to man the anvil and forge the weapons of war.
"My darling, we had a very pleasant fly-over
"and passed fairly close to Lullenden.
"I could follow the road through Croydon and Caterham quite easily.
"We landed here in good time for dinner."
As the war entered its climatic Hundred Days,
French villagers grew accustomed to the sight
of a hyperactive British minister flying in and out.
The chateau was the forward base of a man in his element.
From here, he could visit Haig's HQ at Montreuil.
The two worked closely together,
knowing victory would be secured as much on the home front as in France.
He had a very modern view of war.
It was very much a view of total war,
of war in which all the resources of a state
are committed to the overthrow of the enemy,
those resources of course including industrial and economic resources.
This huge factory near Hereford was just one cog
in a vast industrial machine,
served by 2.5 million munitions workers.
Clementine had kept her husband closely informed
about the women workers now in his charge.
I was very much interested in the girls.
They are nearly all quite young,
very fresh and pretty and rather hoydenish.
Some of them were snowballing with boys outside the canteen.
The women are full of beans
and become terribly skilful very quickly.
Rapid growth had given the ministry
an inefficient, ramshackle structure.
Churchill moved quickly to reform it,
energising Britain's war machine, just in time.
One of the things that people tend not to appreciate
about Churchill is that, while he was this great orator,
this great leader, he was also a man of detail.
He was capable of absorbing and understanding
and manipulating huge amounts of information.
It involves him with complex deals about different materials
all over the world
and it's the sort of challenge that he clearly relished.
Ambitious new targets were set for the production
of planes, gas and shells.
A less autocratic Churchill had emerged.
His appointment is a moment where we see
a maturing, politically, of Churchill, that up until this point,
he was now in his 40s of course, he was somebody who had charged around,
acted impulsively, continually rubbed people up the wrong way,
interfered in other people's territory, put their backs up.
Now, almost for the first time, he calms down a bit,
and does a straightforward job of work,
acts much more as a team player.
He actually also shows a little bit of humility.
"This is a very heavy department,
"almost as interesting as the Admiralty
"with the enormous advantage that one has neither got to fight
"admirals or Huns.
"It is very pleasant to work with competent people."
the tank became a top priority as it demonstrated war-winning potential.
In 1917, tanks are used in a mass attack at Cambrai
and this is done in the manner that the people who'd invented the tank
and the actual tank crews wanted to see the tank used.
So we're looking at 400 tanks do a dawn attack
on ground that hasn't been chewed up by shellfire weeks beforehand.
There's a pre-arranged barrage, very short one, the tanks go forward
and a three-mile gap is cut in the German frontline,
about three miles deep, as well.
This is a fantastic initial advance. It really is one
of the great high points of the British Army in 1917,
and, back at home, the church bells are actually rung
for such a great victory.
The bells had pealed too soon.
There was no victory at Cambrai,
yet it greatly influenced Churchill's war plan for 1919.
Churchill is looking at that strategic overview,
which is, "How and when
are we significantly going to be able to use the tank?"
and Cambrai is a, kind of, vindication of his ideas.
That's a taster.
And he actually says, "Really, up to now, all we've been doing,
"is actually experimenting.
"What we really want to do is build a massive tank fleet."
His aims were 10,000 tanks built within the following year,
so that we could do huge tank attacks in 1919.
Churchill, frankly, did not want to see a repetition
of the great bloody, attritional battles of 1916
and 1917. 1916 - the Somme. 1917 - Arras
and third Ypres, or Passchendaele, as it became known.
He was very much an advocate of building up resources,
waiting for the Americans, who'd entered the war in 1917,
to deploy their vast armies,
which he knew could not happen until the second half of 1918.
The problem was, though, that the enemy always has a vote in any plan.
The German War Plan changed when the Bolsheviks seized power
and took Russia out of the War.
A million fresh German troops poured back toward the Western Front.
Churchill shared his profound anxieties with the Prime Minister.
"The imminent danger is on the Western Front
"and the crisis will come before June.
"A defeat here will be fatal.
"I do not like the situation now developing.
"If this went wrong, everything would go wrong.
"The Germans are a terrible foe
"and their generals are better than ours."
By March, 75 German divisions were marshalled opposite just 37 British,
holding the weakest, southern-most part of the line.
General Ludendorff aimed to drive a wedge between
the British and French, and to annihilate Haig's armies.
Momentous days, foreshadowing the summer of 1940, would now unfold.
On March 20, 1918, Churchill drove into the eye of the storm,
with a visit to frontline South African troops at Gauche Wood.
Through the narrow paths we picked our way gingerly.
The sun was setting as we took our leave of the South Africans.
I see them now,
serene as the Spartans of Leonidas on the eve of Thermopylae.
He stayed that night just seven miles behind the front,
and so became an eyewitness to the furious launch
of Germany's spring offensives.
Suddenly, the silence was broken
by six or seven very loud and very heavy explosions.
And then, exactly as a pianist runs his hand across the keyboard
from treble to bass, there rose, in less than one minute,
the most tremendous cannonade I shall ever hear.
The flame of the bombardment lit like flickering firelight
my tiny cabin.
6,000 guns unleashed a firestorm
as German Stormtroopers pierced the lines.
A non-stop battle raged for 40 days...
..and Churchill became a key actor in the emergency.
Suddenly, the Western Front, in the spring and the summer of 1918,
turns from a stalemate into a war of movement
and a war of movement is a war that requires
tanks, trucks, munitions, logistics.
Vast numbers of tanks and guns had been lost.
And enormous amounts of ammunition were being consumed.
Field Marshal Haig was dependent on Churchill to make up the losses
and sustain embattled armies with their backs to the wall...
..and the war machine delivered.
"I have been able to replace
"everything in the munitions sphere without difficulty.
"Guns, tanks, aeroplanes
"will all be ahead of personnel.
"It has been touch and go on the front."
Lloyd George valued Churchill's cool head in a crisis,
and used him as a personal envoy to the French high command.
It marks a stage in Churchill's rehabilitation.
Ostensibly, Churchill's role is to act as personal liaison officer
between Foch and the British Government.
In reality, he's there to take the temperature.
Are the French Army really going to fight?
And Churchill gives a wonderful description
of this bravura performance,
explaining how the battle is going to run down,
as the Germans run out of impetus
and his chance to seize the initiative will come.
Churchill is really inspired by Foch.
Here is a man who fights, here is a man who can be trusted.
Ludendorff's offensive had burnt itself out.
Allied retribution would come in August.
A mass of tanks and crack Dominion troops
were to spearhead a surprise counter-offensive at Amiens.
Churchill flew out specially to a battlefield
still littered with German dead.
My darling, the tracks of tanks were everywhere apparent.
On our way to the battlefield
we passed nearly 5,000 German prisoners.
Our cavalry are still out in front
and in some parts of the line there are, at the moment, no Germans left.
I am so glad about this great and fine victory of the British Army.
There is no doubt that they have felt themselves abundantly supplied.
The British Army puts in some tremendous counter attacks
and, in August of 1918, at the Battle of Amiens,
we actually completely defeat the German army
and the German army starts retreating.
And tanks, aeroplanes, artillery, combined tactics,
all-arms tactics, as they're sometimes used, come together
and, in actual fact, we beat the Germans ahead of the game.
To his surprise,
Churchill's plans for a war-winning campaign in 1919 were shelved,
as Haig's army advanced in an epic Hundred Day victory roll.
As the weapons maker and godfather of the tank,
Churchill had a share in their battle honours.
This, I think, is Winston's hidden secret -
his single most important contribution
to Britain winning the war in the First World War,
and, next to his Prime Ministership in Britain 1940,
the greatest thing that Churchill ever did
for the security of the United Kingdom.
The last wartime letters expressed quiet pride in his fortunes.
"coming out here makes me thoroughly contented with my office.
"I do not chafe at adverse political combinations
"or at not being able to direct general policy.
"I am content to be associated
"with the splendid machines of the British Army."
Clementine's thoughts could turn at last to peace and Winston's future.
"My darling, I would like you to be praised
"as a reconstructive genius, as well as for a mustard gas fiend,
"tank juggernaut and flying terror.
"I have got a plan. Can't the men munition workers
"build lovely garden cities and pull down slums,
"and can't the women make all the lovely furniture for them?
"Do come home and arrange all this.
"Tender love, from Clemmie."
For Winston and Clementine, looking back in 1918,
on the previous four years, must have been
a rollercoaster of emotion, I would think.
After all, this is a classic story of sort of Hubris and Nemesis
and then, redemption, but I think, he would also have seen it
as a period of lost opportunities for him, personally,
because he would have wanted to remain at the centre of affairs
and that, politically, he ends the First World War
in a slightly weaker position than the one in which he started it,
the first sort of real set back that he'd had,
but also in terms of lost opportunities, generally,
in what he might have been able to bring towards this struggle.
But for all the setbacks in his public life,
Churchill acknowledged a special private gain -
an enduring bond, created by the love and faith
of his Cat, Clementine.
CHURCHILL: It was a few minutes before the 11th Hour.
My mind strayed back across the scarring years
to the night at the Admiralty, when I listened for these same chimes,
in order to give the signal of war against Germany.
And now, all was over.
It was with feelings which do not lend themselves to words
that I heard the cheers of the brave people who had given all,
who had never wavered,
who had never lost faith in their country or its destiny.
And then, Winston was back in the Cabinet.
In January, 1919, he was made Secretary of State...
Churchill's experience in the First World War,
of being at the pinnacle of the war effort,
then being unceremoniously kicked out of office
and slowly, but surely, rebuilding his political career,
convinced him that he was a man of destiny,
that he could recover from anything.
A simply astonishing man who'd never understood the meaning
of stop, finish, over,
and was just going to press on till the very end.
Later, he wrote that,
"All had to suffer,
"and all had to learn."
Millions had suffered.
But no man had learnt more of war command.
It was a bitter, but complete, apprenticeship.
In 1922, the Churchills moved to Chartwell,
a home dotted with wartime relics.
That decade, he wrote The World Crisis -
a multi-volume study of the Great War.
Yet, this work of history concluded on a dark and prophetic note.
"Is this the end?
"Will our children bleed and gasp again in devastated lands?"
First would come more wilderness years...
But when summoned again,
a greater warlord, steeled by the Great War,
was ready and prepared to fulfil his destiny.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Drama-documentary about Winston Churchill's extraordinary experiences during the Great War, with intimate letters to his wife Clementine allowing the story to be told largely in his own words. Just 39 and at the peak of his powers running the Royal Navy, Churchill in 1914 dreamt of Napoleonic glory, but suffered a catastrophic fall into disgrace and humiliation over the Dardanelles disaster.
The film follows his road to redemption, beginning in the trenches of Flanders in 1916, revealing how he became the 'godfather' of the tank and his forgotten contribution to final victory in 1918 as Minister of Munitions. Dark political intrigue, a passionate love story and remarkable military adventures on land, sea and air combine to show how the Churchill of 1940 was shaped and forged by his experience of the First World War.