Did WWII Sap Winston Churchill’s Spirit?

You be the judge.  Here’s the story from The Australian, January 17, 2011:

The previously confidential records show a leader whose work deteriorated and whose character suffered because of years of stress that left him with “an intolerance of criticism and bad temper”.

Churchill’s decline was exacerbated because he “never nursed his physique” and failed to “listen to advice”, according to Charles Moran, his doctor for 25 years.

Historians believe a fitter Churchill might arguably have been able to stand up more persuasively to Josef Stalin, the Soviet leader, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the US president, on the future of Europe after the war — by keeping Poland free of Soviet domination, for example.

A fitter man might also have had the strength to win the 1945 general election against Labour.

Moran’s handwritten medical notes on Churchill are being released under data protection law after 60 years. They follow the publication of the physician’s memoirs in 1966, for which Moran was criticised for breaching patient confidentiality. The new records show he had been relatively discreet in his memoirs.

Moran’s notes cast fresh light on Churchill’s mental wellbeing after the battles to convince the government of the threat posed by Adolf Hitler and then five years of war. Observing that Churchill’s “work suffers” and his “character suffers”, Moran asks: “Did his character change or did war only exaggerate (it)?”

The doctor states: “Work begins (to) deteriorate.” He saw him as “always wilful, opinionated, undisciplined”, adding: “When home not working, he would spend half the night talking, smoking and drinking.”

On May 17, 1945, Moran writes: “(Churchill) looked very tired. He told me that he had hardly ever worked so hard. He has been keeping shocking hours . . . going to bed at 3, 4 or 5am . . . I told him he was racing the engine and that couldn’t go on.”

Moran recorded Churchill’s irritation with other leaders, including Charles de Gaulle, the French general: “The PM is a bad hater, but in these days when he is stretched taut certain people seem to get on his nerves. De Gaulle is one of them. His cold austerity chills him.”

The doctor’s papers are being made available to the public by the Wellcome Library in London where they were deposited by Moran’s family in 1984.

Historian Thomas Weber said Churchill’s deterioration “might well have affected how he conducted the war in its final stages and how he furthered British interests”. He said it raised the question whether, with Britain’s weak economic state in 1945 and Roosevelt sick, a “cold-blooded” Churchill in vigorous health at Yalta might have dealt more effectively with Stalin. “A man less exhausted . . . might less easily be deluded by Stalin,” he said.



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