Digital Survivors

Buchanan's Source on Churchill's "Starvation Blockade"

Scott Manning
July 7, 2008

This is a follow-up article to Buchanan is Wrong. Churchill Had No "Starvation Blockade" published last month. In that article, we showed how in Patrick J. Buchanan's new book Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War", he incorrectly portrayed the blockade of Germany during World War I as something devised and executed entirely by Winston Churchill.

Buchanan also incorrectly portrayed Churchill as celebrating the starvation of the German people after the 1918 armistice as a success of "his" blockade. In reality, Churchill was imploring the House of Commons to bring an end to the blockade as soon as possible.

The Churchill Legend by Francis Neilson
Buchanan's source for the information is The Churchill Legend written by Francis Neilson. The book's overall points are very similar to those of Buchanan's book: The world wars could have been avoided and Churchill was not as great as history leads us to believe.

It's interesting to see Neilson make the same mistakes in 1954 that Buchanan makes in 2008. A prime example can be seen in Neilson's analysis of the blockade of Germany after the 1918 armistice.

During Mr. Churchill's period at the War Office, appeal after appeal had been sent to him about the conditions produced by the blockade. These were ignored. On March 3, 1919, Mr. Churchill told the House of Commons:
We are enforcing the blockade with rigour, and Germany is very near starvation. All the evidence I have received from officers sent by the War Office all over Germany show: firstly, the great privation which the German people are suffering; and, secondly, the danger of a collapse of the entire structure of German social and national life under the pressure of hunger and malnutrition.

(Neilson, p. 250)

We now see where Buchanan got his inspiration to label it "Churchill's Starvation Blockade."

Neilson makes several mistakes.

The first is that he claims Churchill received "appeal after appeal about the conditions produced by the blockade," yet he offers no evidence or source.

Second, Neilson leaves the reader to believe that Churchill had some sort of authority to end the blockade. This is a little more subliminal than Buchanan who flatly claims Churchill was the blockade's "chief architect and advocate."

Finally, Neilson makes the same mistake as Buchanan by leaving out key portions of the speech. This is clearly intentional so as to leave the reader with the impression that Churchill was doing nothing more on March 3, 1919 than telling the House of Commons of the success of the blockade. In reality, Churchill was imploring them to bring an end to the blockade as soon as possible.

Neilson's claim that Churchill "ignored" appeals that were sent to his office is debunked when you look at the full text of the very speech quoted by Neilson.

This scene painted by Neilson and Buchanan is the true "legend."

Buchanan, Patrick J. Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War". New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2008.

Neilson, Francis. The Churchill Legend. Appleton, WI: C. C. Nelson Publishing Company, 1954.

More on the "Unnecessary War"
The commentary on Patrick J. Buchanan's book doesn't stop here. We've discovered more questionable historical analysis, hacked quotes, copied maps, and flat-out mistakes in the book. Read more here.