Action this day: working with Churchill by John (ed) WHEELER-BENNETT

By John (ed) WHEELER-BENNETT

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Government Departments which under Neville Chamberlain had continued to work at much the same speed as in peacetime awoke to the realities of war. A sense of urgency was created in the course of a very few days and respectable civil servants were actually to be seen running along the corridors. No delays were condoned; telephone switchboards quadrupled their efficiency; the Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Planning Staff were in almost constant session; 50 JOHN COLVILLE regular office hours ceased to exist and weekends disappeared with them.

It was typical of him that when he drew up the constitution of the Other Club - a political dining club which in Igii, when he was a Liberal, he had founded jointly with F. E. Smith (later Lord Birkenhead), a leading Conservative - he provided in the Rules that 'nothing in the intercourse of the Club shall interfere with the rancour or asperity of party politics'. ' But, even so, I doubt whether he had the same relish for Party government after the war. He had never 38 LORD NORMANBROOK been ready to give unquestioning support to every article of Conservative faith; he had been an individualist in politics; and it was only with hesitation that he had accepted the leadership of the Conservative Party.

Colville and I dined with him alone. He was in a wheelchair. Mter dinner, in the drawingroom, he said that he was going to stand on his feet. Colville and I urged him not to attempt this, and, when he insisted, we came up on either side of him so that we could catch him if he fell. But he waved us away with his stick and told us to stand back. He then lowered his feet to the ground, gripped the arms of his chair, and by a tremendous effort- with sweat pouring down his face - levered himself to his feet and stood 43 ACTION THIS DAY upright.

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