Winston Churchill, as played so beautifully by Ian McNeice in Victory of the Daleks, was a maverick and a genius. A journalist, a soldier, and a statesman, he started his life in politics in the Conservative Party, then joined the Liberal Party, and finally returned to the Conservatives. In the 1930s, when other members of his party sought to avoid war with Hitler by any means, he stood out strongly for rearmament and was denounced as a warmonger. He replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister in 1940 and formed a wartime coalition government with Clement Attlee, the Labour Party leader, as his deputy.
At the time Victory of the Daleks is set, France had fallen to the Nazis and Britain stood alone against the German war machine. The United States had not yet entered the war. As an island, Britain was protected against Hitler’s land armies but, as Churchill says in the episode, invasion was expected daily. The Nazis gathered barges from all the conquered countries of Europe to be converted into landing craft: if it could defeat the RAF, it could launch a seaborne invasion across the channel. No wonder McNeice’s Churchill looked to Bracewell’s Ironsides as the wonder weapon which could win the war: in reality, the British government considered the use of anthrax against German cities and large stocks of the filth were prepared, loaded into bombs, and then withdrawn at the last minute.
Churchill was a wit and a genius at rhetoric. Many of his quips and quotations are well known: some of them are apocryphal. But here are 10 things you maybe didn’t know about Churchill:
- Churchill suffered throughout his life from depression, which he called his “black dog”.
- Churchill was fond of pigs. As he said: “I like pigs. Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you, but a pig looks upon you as an equal.”
- Churchill’s hobbies included painting – he once said he painted about 40 oil paintings a year – and bricklaying. He was the only Conservative Prime Minister to be a member of a trade union, the National Union of Bricklayers, until he was expelled from that body for being a member of the Conservative Party.
- Churchill faced setbacks and difficulties with the phrase he uses in Victory of the Daleks: “Keep Buggering On”. He abbreviated it to “KBO”, as he does to Amy Pond, and would write those initials as a reminder on his papers.
- Churchill very much liked the Labour Leader Clement Attlee, although he once disparagingly referred to him as “a sheep in sheep’s clothing”. Attlee and he remained great friends. A visitor at Chartwell, Churchill’s Kent home, criticised Attlee at dinner and Churchill told him: “Mr Attlee is my friend and a patriot, and if you criticise him, you will not be invited to Chartwell again.”
- Churchill, however, did not like Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the free French. De Gaulle visited Chartwell during the war and a new weapon was tested in the grounds. Churchill was delighted when it exploded near enough to de Gaulle to make him jump out of his skin.
- Later in his life, Churchill left instructions that his funeral procession should pass through the London station of Waterloo. He did this explicitly in order to annoy de Gaulle. (The English defeated the French at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.)
- In spite of winning the Second World War, Churchill was ejected from office in 1945 when Labour won a landslide majority. Clementine, his wife, told him it might be a blessing in disguise. Churchill replied, “At the moment, it seems to be very effectively disguised.”
- Churchill said that history would be kind to him, as he intended to write it. (And he did: after losing the 1945 general election, he wrote his multi-volume history of the Second World War.)
- Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames (Conservative MP until 2019 and sacked by Boris Johnson for disloyalty) sneaked as a small child into Churchill’s working room and said, “Grandpapa, is it true that you are the greatest man in the world?”
Churchill said, “Yes, and now bugger off.”
Footnote: Churchill is a hero of the present Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who wrote a quickie biography of the great man in 2014. Johnson’s former employer, the historian Sir Max Hastings, who sacked Johnson from The Daily Telegraph for lying to him, said: “[Johnson] supposes himself to be Winston Churchill, while in reality being closer to Alan Partridge.”
And, of course, Fact #11: Churchill knew several incarnations of the Doctor, commenting to the Eleventh Doctor that he’d changed his face again. This is an absolute fact and cannot be denied by reality.