Source 7

Copy of a telegram from Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt, 18 March 1945

Reference

CHAR 20/199/76-77

Simplified Transcript

PRIME MINISTER’S
PERSONAL TELEGRAM
SERIAL No T.298/5.

PRIME MINISTER TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT     No.914.
PERSONAL AND PRIVATE.            18.3.45.

  1. I hope I am not boring you with all of the messages I have sent about our problems. Our friendship is the rock on which I build for the future of the world so long as I am one of the builders. I always think of those great days when you devised Lend-Lease, when we met at Argentia, when you decided with my heartfelt agreement to launch the invasion of Africa, and when you comforted me for the loss of Tobruk by giving me the 300 Sherman tanks that helped us win the Battle of El Alamein. I remember the part our friendship has played in winning the war.
  2. I am sending most of my government ministers to America, while I stay at home to look after things. I shall be looking forward to your long-promised visit. Clemmie [Churchill’s wife] is off to Russia next week for a Red Cross tour, invited by Uncle Joe [Stalin] but she will be back in time to welcome you and your wife Eleanor. My thoughts are always with you all.
  3. Peace with Germany and Japan will not bring much rest to you and me (if I win the General Election). As I said last time, when this war is over there will be other problems to solve. There will be a torn, ragged and hungry world to help to its feet; and what will Uncle Joe [Stalin] and his successor say about our plans? It was much easier to talk about just British politics the other day after all this difficult international politics. This message is just a friendly one except to say that I spoke with Rosenmann [Samuel Rosenman, Special Counsel to the President of the United States] about everyday business.

All good wishes,
Winston.

Original Transcript

PRIME MINISTER’S
PERSONAL TELEGRAM
SERIAL No T.298/5.

PRIME MINISTER TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT     No.914.
PERSONAL AND PRIVATE.            18.3.45.

  1. I hope that the rather numerous telegrams I have to send you on so many of our difficult and intertwined affairs are not becoming a bore to you. Our friendship is the rock on which I build for the future of the world so long as I am one of the builders. I always think of those tremendous days when you devised Lend-Lease, when we met at Argentia, when you decided with my heartfelt agreement to launch the invasion of Africa, and when you comforted me for the loss of Tobruk by giving me the 300 Shermans [Sherman tanks] of subsequent Alamein fame. I remember the part our personal relations have played in the advance of the World Cause now nearing its first military goal.
  2. I am sending to Washington and San Francisco most of my Ministerial colleagues on one Mission or another, and I shall on this occasion stay at home to mind the shop. All the time I shall be looking forward to your long-promised visit. Clemmie is off to Russia next week for a Red Cross tour as far as the Urals to which she has been invited by Uncle Joe (if we may venture to describe him thus) but she will be back in time to welcome you and Eleanor. My thoughts are always with you all.
  3. Peace with Germany and Japan on our terms will not bring much rest to you and me (if I am still responsible). As I observed last time, when the war of the giants is over, the war of the pygmies will begin. There will be a torn, ragged and hungry world to help to its feet; and what will U.J. and his successor say to the way we should both like to do it? It was quite a relief to talk party politics the other day. It was like working in wood after working in steel. The advantage of this telegram is that it has nothing to do with shop except that I had a good talk with Rosenmann [Samuel Rosenman, Special Counsel to the President of the United States] about our daily bread.

All good wishes,

WINSTON.

What is this source?

This is a copy of a telegram Churchill sent to Roosevelt less than a month before Roosevelt died and less than two months before the war ended in Europe. In it he reflects on how important their friendship has been during the war.

Background to this source

At the time Churchill sent this telegram the defeat of Germany was assured. Churchill is taking the chance instead to focus on the General Election in May which he would need to win in to remain Prime Minister.

Additional information

Following the successful invasion across the Channel starting with D-Day on 6 June 1944, the war in Europe was coming to an end. The Germans had proved determined to continue fighting which had led to the Russian Army invading much of the East Germany and almost reaching Berlin. British, Commonwealth and American forces had liberated France, Belgium and The Netherlands and were pressing into Germany from the west.  By this stage, the appearance of unity over the discussions of Poland at the Yalta conference (held the previous month) had faded. Churchill was also concerned about the information he was receiving of Roosevelt’s failing health.

In the UK, the government had called the first General Election in ten years and Churchill faced the possibility of not being elected if the Labour Party of Clement Attlee (his deputy Prime Minister during the war) won more seats than the Conservatives.

Churchill refers to Stalin using the initials “U.J” as an abbreviation for “Uncle Joe”. In February 1945, at the Yalta conference, Roosevelt let it slip to Stalin that he and Churchill called Stalin “Uncle Joe”. Churchill felt that Stalin was annoyed by this, although he attempted to conceal his irritation.

Churchill makes a reference to sending his ministers to Washington and San Francisco. The subject of the mission to Washington was to discuss post-war food supplies. The San Francisco conference was on the subject of post-war international organization.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember we are hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating what was special about the relationship between Britain and America in the latter years of the Second World War. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level: details, facts and figures

  1. Why is Churchill writing to President Roosevelt?
  2. What is the tone of this this telegram?
  3. What does this tell us about Churchill’s friendship with President Roosevelt?
     

Deeper level: inferences and using the source as evidence

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

 

  On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
Churchill was concerned about the General Election in Britain    
Churchill had found the war a challenge compared to ordinary politics    
The relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt was one of deep friendship    
There was a special relationship between Britain and America during WW2
   

 

Need help interpreting the source?

  • This telegram seems to suggest that there has been a change in the war and that Churchill is in a reflective mood. For historians it is interesting to consider whether this reflects any change in the Special Relationship. For instance, is there evidence of ongoing co-operation at the highest level? Is there evidence of personal friendship and connections?
  • Some historians might also point out that there is still some indication of Churchill being anxious about the future, both in terms of his own position at home and his lack of involvement in shaping the post-war world.
  • Although this telegram is marked as ‘personal’, this was still an official document. The explanation behind this is that Churchill had his telegrams and minutes designated as ‘personal’ to make sure the Cabinet Office could not stop him taking them home and using them in the history he planned to write of the Second World War.

Explore the guide to interpreting telegrams