CHURCHILL, COLVILLE AND “VICTORY”
No one was closer to Winston Churchill at work during World War II, and after, than John “Jock” Colville, his legendary Principal Private Secretary. After, lo, these many years, the Colville family has begun to deaccession a few prizes from Sir John Colville’s personal stash of Churchilliana. This is rather exciting.
Winston Churchill’s war speeches were collected in book-length compendiums, yearly, throughout the war, in both the U.K. and the U.S. Victory, the penultimate, sixth volume, published in 1946, gathered speeches from the final eight months of the war (January 18-August 16, 1945), about the Yalta Conference, the death of Roosevelt, the German surrender, VE-Day, the Atomic bomb, the surrender of Japan and, finally, the General Election that threw Churchill out of office.
The resonance of Winston Churchill inscribing Victory — his book of speeches from the final year of the war and his final year as P.M. — to the man who’d worked beside him every step of the way is quite exceptional. John Colville’s personal copy of Victory is signed in ink on the half-title: “To Jock, from Winston S. Churchill 1946.” The ornate bookplate of John Rupert Colville is affixed to the front pastedown.
Colville kept a scrupulous private diary throughout his years with Churchill that he never intended for publication — until finally he was prevailed upon in the 1980s to allow it to be published, under the title, The Fringes of Power.
After witnessing Churchill deliver the speech that would open Victory: “Review of the War, a Speech to the House of Commons, January 18, 1945,” Colville wrote in his diary:
In spite of a cold and sore throat, which had kept him in bed some days, the P.M. gaily opened the debate on the war situation in the House. He spoke for over two hours, dividing his speech for luncheon. He was in great form, both witty and combatitive. Before lunch he spoke of foreign politics and particularly Greece, trouncing Gallacher, Aneurin Bevan and other interruptors. His allusion to the The Times’ deplorable attitude to the Greek crisis — he referred to a “time-honoured” newspaper — evoked laughter and applause as I have seldom heard. In the afternoon his speech was less pugnacious but very eloquent. Indeed, rhetorically, it was the best effort I have heard him make since 1941, or even 1940.
An intensely important and intimate Churchillian presentation volume. “Victory” indeed.