In 1946, Winston Churchill decided that he was ready to write his war memoirs. “In view of the fact that Roosevelt is dead and Stalin will never publish,” his literary agent Emery Reves would point out, “…you are the only man who can reveal the decisive issues of the last war.”

In our circumnavigation of Churchill’s book-length works, we have reached his magnum opus, THE SECOND WORLD WAR. On this, the 56th Anniversary of the State Funeral of Winston Churchill, we begin with Volume One: “THE GATHERING STORM.”

Winston Churchill embraced writing his war memoirs as an opportunity to write his own history. He also appreciated that the work offered him a way out of a lifetime of money woes. With Reves and the British press baron Lord Camrose acting jointly as his agent, American book rights were sold to the publisher Houghton Mifflin for $250,000. Rights for serialization went to Henry Luce and Time Inc. for $1,150,000. Cassell contracted to publish in Britain for a £25,000 advance (roughly $1,400,000 today).

Churchill retrieved his own personal  archive of wartime documents from a hutch beside the boiler in the basement at Chartwell, supplementing this private trove with everything official that the government now agreed (under duress) to provide.

Churchill then began to write.

“He keeps six secretaries busy,” noted Walter Graebner, the London representative of Time Inc., to his bosses. “They work in shifts so that someone is on hand 16 hours or more a day, seven days a week. One secretary drives with him to and from the country, as Mr. Churchill uses this time to dictate… Says Churchill: ‘I can do about 1,000 words while motoring to Chartwell — never less than 800.’”

Churchill was certain that the Second World War could have been avoided. Had the victorious Allies not punished Germany vindictively at Versailles following World War One; had Great Britain not appeased Hitler once he rose to power — the opportunities for avoiding war, both through magnanimity and through strength, had been manifold. This became Churchill’s theme in his opening volume, the book that he titled: “The Gathering Storm,” which was published in the United States on June 21, 1948, followed by publication in England on October 4; launched with a Churchillian epigraph that is now timeless:

“In War, Resolution; In Defeat, Defiance; In Victory, Magnanimity; and in Peace, Good Will.”


We wish you all of the above and, above all, good health.