[The Cunning Tower by Kim Davis: April 11, 2013]
I was sick when they buried Sir Winston Churchill.
I watched his funeral on a big television. I distinctly remember it was in black and white. In 1965, all television was in black and white. There was a big military procession, and it was explained to me that Churchill's body was being conveyed by the big gun carriage. It seemed to go on forever.
I was six years old, but I remember it like yesterday. We had just moved, maybe the day before, to the house I was to live in until I left home at eighteen. As children do, I had fallen ill during the move. I was put into a makeshift bed in the living room, and allowed to watch television. At some time, I was given a Churchill crown--a big, silver, commemorative coin. Churchill was, well, really, really famous. And beloved.
Why? He had led his party to defeat in 1945, and his later post-war administration got generally bad reviews. He was an irascible Tory reactionary, who in the 1920s had recommended shooting striking miners. But there was no dissent when he was given a state funeral.
Simply because, in the teeth of strong political opposition, he had united the British people in a solitary rope-a-dope against the Luftwaffe. Once France was over-run, Britain was the only country resisting Hitler until the United States and Russia were drawn into the war almost two years later.
The blitz--the bombing of London and other UK cities--lasted 57 consecutive days in 1940. There were over 28,000 civilian deaths--civilian--in London alone. I was in New York on September 11, 2001. That tragedy helped me to understand--a little, at least--what the blitz must have been like. My mother's family were in London for the blitz. My mother remembers running down the street to hide in the local church, her mother protecting her with her own body.
Churchill held the nation together. What would have happened if Hitler had secured power across Europe before Russia or the United States entered the war? Churchill, for all his deep faults, is someone who changed history--and in the right direction.
Margaret Thatcher liked to be thought of as Churchillian, and a great "war time" leader. Her achievement? Forcing the surrender of a conscript Argentinian force, trapped between the First Battalion of Gurkhas and the Special Boat Service, the professional British army's top combat and commando troops, respectively.
She'll be transported on a gun carriage to St Paul's Cathedral next week. I'll probably watch. But I'll never understand.