Did Churchill smoke black market cigars?

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by Ramiles, Apr 26, 2015.

  1. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Apologies for this (perhaps cheeky) suggestion..

    "Did Churchill smoke black market cigars?"

    (As this link might "seem" to suggest?)

    (somehow I think he actually may have got a lot of his cigars from sailor friends of old of his from his admiralty days who were allowed to bring them back in their own belongings from their sailings abroad?) - also were his cigars even always lit??? Occasionally I think specific warships also bought gifts of cigars back for Churchill from their tours abroad?

    I seem to remember a ww2 documentary a few years back which showed the German propaganda version of Churchill as a heavy drinking chain smoking... etc... etc.... (incapable and failing to win the war)

    And see; http://www.bytwerk.com/gpa/winstonchurchill.htm
    Background: Nazi propaganda on Winston Churchill followed a trajectory. Before the war began, he was a relatively minor figure, appearing only when he made the news for calling attention to German rearmament. Between the outbreak of the war and his appointment as prime minister, he was a bumbling clown, the hapless victim of German military brilliance. Between May 1941 and the invasion of the Soviet Union, he was the prime enemy, the person standing between Germany and a just peace. For the remainder of the war, he was the puppet of Stalin and Roosevelt and the Jews who stood behind them. (The images on this page come from a range of sources.)

    Which you can follow through the years as the tone changes but never seems to reference (i.e. look back on) itself. I can imagine someone keeping copies of these and asking - for each how come everything in them (predictive) is always so wrong??? Perhaps it would become a crime to keep them and reference back to where they were wrong?

    (I think Hitler thought that if you were a vegetarian, almost-teetotaler who didn't smoke then whatever else you chose to do was okay...)

    I also recently saw this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/winston-churchill/11374144/How-to-drink-like-Winston-Churchill.html

    Which does help dispel some of the myth (much of which I think Churchill himself loved to spread)

    But if one of his favourite drinks was actually German white wine (which he called HocK) then I can see why he wanted to see a speedy end to the war - and he'd better leap to the helm - and that the Nazi's had better watch out!

  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY


    Wiki is oddly "silent" on the "possibility" of tobacco rationing occurring in the UK during WW2:
    Non-food rations Cigarettes and tobacco [​IMG] This section requires expansion.(August 2013)




    Contrary to the forecasts of doom forecast by The Daily Express, rationing became popular and was seen as a fair system. So much so that there were popular demands for other foodstuffs to be rationed, principally tinned food, dried fruit, rice, cereals and biscuits, but this wasn't practical since supplies could not be guaranteed. There was also a strong demand for cigarettes and tobacco to be rationed but this too was rejected.

    .... so given that "presumably" supplies could not be guaranteed - I guess that anyone with enough money could buy tobacco and those without would go without.

    I wonder if this is another "good" reason why WW2 is sometimes very oddly thought a "somewhat healthier" time :pipe:

    So BBC article "Should we bring back rationing?" : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8445824.stm

    With some interesting points in there like:

    Boring diet - "There was an occasion where a raffle for a single banana raised £5, then a healthy weekly wage, says Mr Charman, and another occasion where £4 worth of tickets were sold for the raffling of a single onion." * :eek:

    Sedentary life - "What would surprise most people is that, according to the government's National Food Survey at least, the amount of calories each person consumes a day has steadily declined since the rationing era." :pipe:
    I think that the alcohol intake of the general population was actually a lot higher back then there too?

    Given Churchill's "apparent propensity" to ostentatiously smoke and drink fine spirits though and presumably dine on fine foods (???) it's "perhaps" surprising that the effect of this on the "British" was actually in the service of raising morale:

    Though I do remember a Blitzed Eastender's "quick" response to Churchill's "We can take it" was - "it's us that are taking it not you" (though admittedly this was immediately just after the Eastend was bombed).

    Though I prefer the more upbeat sign businesses put on chalkboard signs outside their shattered premises, reading:
    More open than usual. If you think this is bad, you should see our Berlin branch.

    I think though that "back then" we didn't go in for seeing our leaders as such as "mere ordinary folk" that we might meet down the pub or actually have got to go to school with. It's perhaps not so surprising though as austerity persisted after the war that the mood slightly changed when rationing continued for nine years, with some allowances dropping immediately after victory in Europe and some new things like bread, which had not been rationed during the war, being restricted.

    "Whereas people were prepared to make the sacrifices when we had a very tangible and evil enemy, afterward people were saying 'we won the war, why are we still being rationed? Why is it still getting worse?'"

    At which point the toting of "cigars and fine wines" were really not so in favour or morale raising any more? :pipe:

    i.e. http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/7626-why-was-churchill-turned-out/?p=656073

    All the best,


    * I suspect though that this was rather more in the way of a interesting means of "raising money for a good cause" - rather than merely "paying for food" (as this article "playfully" fails to point out ;) )
  3. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There's an interesting quotes here: http://www.londoncigarguide.com/Sir_Winston_Churchill.html

    ...i.e. it has been calculated that he (Churchill) smoked some 200,000 cigars in his lifetime. (So I guess that they were "generally" lit ;) )

    As well as this recent one (23rd Jan 2015) marking the anniversary (24th Jan) of his death:

    With some great quotes - such as Churchill thinking that "English afternoon tea was an abomination" - and nice links:

    "Churchill's ashtray" (Looks more though like an "astray" for a domestic hearth fire ;) )

    ...in there...

    All the best,

  4. Uncle George

    Uncle George Active Member

    I think I read somewhere that hundreds of cigars were sent to WSC during the War as gifts: yet security concerns meant that he wasn't able to smoke any of them. I'll see if I can dig out the reference. (Meanwhile I am reminded of the supposed CIA Castro assassination attempt.)

    And here's Andrew Roberts: "He rarely inhaled cigars, but as he was about to walk into a public occasion he lit one up and advised the Tory MP beside him: 'Never forget your trademark!' "

    'Hitler and Churchill - Secrets of Leadership' (2003). Roberts gives the source, Irving, 'Winston S Churchill: Triumph'.
  5. Uncle George

    Uncle George Active Member

    More from Roberts: "The author Clive Ponting has also complained that Churchill and Eden drank expensive 1865 cognac together in November 1940, but one might legitimately ask: if they did not deserve the luxury of drinking vintage brandy as they fought to save civilisation, who did?"
    von Poop likes this.
  6. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Thanks "Uncle George"

    Perhaps they were just doing their bit and darnedest to ensure that the Nazi's never got it (it was a close thing in 1940 I guess! and better to be safe than sorry! :) )

    This is a fascinating read: How the Nazis Plundered Champagne & Moët During WWII :http://www.angelafoxpetersen.com/champagne/

    There's also some detail here: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/7626-why-was-churchill-turned-out/?p=668241
    About Churchill "giving up things that were already lost in order to obtain that which was in doubt" Slightly "intriguing" that Churchill actually wrote (???) that just one of the reasons he thought he lost the 1945 election was that there was discontent that there "wasn't enough tobacco" :pipe:

    BTW.. there are also some really great quotes in here: http://iheartcigars.blogspot.co.uk/p/great-cigar-quotes.html

    Including... In the early days of World War II, Winston Churchill received a message from the manager of Dunhill, whose shop had just been bombed: "Your cigars are safe, Sir."

    - Charles Dickens "Ah, if only I had brought a cigar with me! This would have established my identity." (Presumably Churchill too!)

    And one for the US to bear in mind - Kinky Friedman, about smoking Cuban cigars: "I'm not supporting their economy, I'm burning their crops."

    ​There's also something somewhere I guess about the cop confiscating the contraband and burning it - albeit one smoke at a time (though p'hap marijuana rather than / as well as cigars ;) )

    And " that hundreds of cigars were sent to WSC during the War as gifts: yet security concerns meant that he wasn't able to smoke any of them."
    Would that have been "security" saying that? As I could well imagine :) that all "these cigars" were also nevertheless burned under carefully controlled conditions by the relevant authorities i.e. judiciously one at a time ;)

    [SIZE=14.8500003814697px]All the best,[/SIZE]

  7. Uncle George

    Uncle George Active Member

    Yousef Karsh, on taking this famous photograph:

    “I said, ‘Forgive me, sir,’ and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant that I took the photograph. The silence was deafening.”

    Attached Files:

    8RB likes this.
  8. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Well really!

    What did he expect, Yousef Karsh shouldn't have been smoking Churchill's cigar while he took the photo then ! ;)

    The photo above post #7 looks to me remarkably like the picture that Churcill (or his wife?) had burned? They look to be a very similar pose / style, and both, I note, lacking something rather important without the "trade mark" cigar:

  9. Uncle George

    Uncle George Active Member

    WSC's take on the Sutherland portrait: "It makes me look as if I were straining stool."

    Roy Jenkins: "His dislike, which passed the bounds of rationality, was based partly on the ground that it made him look old and spent, which it did, and partly that it showed his face as cruel and coarse, which it was not."
    Ramiles likes this.
  10. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Roy Jenkins: "His dislike, which passed the bounds of rationality,"

    That's a bit rich! Particularly from his/her majesties loyal opposition (but nevertheless from a man with a particularly interesting life*): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Jenkins

    I can well understand Churchill's point of view, particularly as in his twilight years when all must wonder what their legacy will be.

    Perhaps after all he had done Churchill (was expected just to have a much thicker skin) and cheap shots couldn't wound him. But it's a journalistic/historic tendency to look for an angle or a new story and hence swim against the tide sometimes. To take at great icons and try to bring them down. Just the way of the world I guess. And sometimes actually we are poorer for it.

    Seems like something that they still don't understand about "us" in the US.

    All the best,


    * He was well regarded by other Labour statesmen including Tony Benn, but came under heavy criticism from others including Denis Healey, who condemned the SDP split as a "disaster" for the Labour Party which prolonged their time in opposition and allowed the Tories to have an unbroken run of 18 years in government.

    (Perhap's here "in the above" snippet he was "just making amends" :D )
  11. Uncle George

    Uncle George Active Member

    "But it's a journalistic/historic tendency to look for an angle or a new story and hence swim against the tide sometimes, take at great icons and try to bring them done. Just the way of the world I guess. And sometimes actually we are poorer for it."

    Andrew Roberts: "What in 'Great Contemporaries' he called 'the grievous inquest of history' has sat in judgement on Churchill and has found that he has no case to answer. Only in certain historical and journalistic and outré academic circles is that verdict considered unsafe."
  12. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    When he visited Canada Churchill was sent a lot of cigars as gifts - which he declined. The Embassy staff were told to destroy them "by fire" ...
  13. Over Here

    Over Here Junior Member

    Given what WSC occasionally said in his darker moments during those days, the thought was probably "drink it before the Germans do".

    Anyone who would decry that sentiment is a fool, at best.
  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    BBC Radio 4 - Prime Ministers' Props, Series 2, Winston Churchill's Cigar
    BBC Radio 4 - Prime Ministers' Props, Series 2, Prime Minister's Props - David Cannadine with Churchill's Cigar

    Winston Churchill's Cigar
    David Cannadine examines the careers of British Prime Ministers through their props of power.

    It was during the Second World War that Winston Churchill adopted the cigar as his most indispensable Prime Ministerial prop and he rarely appeared in public without it. Clenched tightly between his jaws, his cigar signified defiance and determination, resolve and resolution.

    Glowing brightly and accompanied by expansive gestures, it radiated confidence and hope. But the fact that Churchill liked cigars was a sign for Hitler that he was a weak man and a poor leader, and Nazi propaganda depicted Churchill and his cigar as decadent and self-indulgent.

    David visits Chartwell, Churchill's Kent country home, to view his famous cigar cabinet which now houses paints in his studio. He discusses the way in which Churchill's cigar became synonymous with his political image - so much so that, towards the end of his life, he gave out cigars as a calling card and his global fame meant they went for thousands at auction.

    A mahogany and satin wood Humidor was sent to Churchill by a Cuban cigar company. Apparently most of the 3,000 cigars which came with it were destroyed because their safety could not be guaranteed via testing, but not, apparently, before the man himself had already shared some out.

    Chartwell, Kent on Twitter
    Churchill's Studio at Chartwell
  15. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Tobacco was never rationed but from 1941 there were major shortages of cigarettes and many tobacconists ran out completely. There were minor riots as even money could not buy what was not to be had. Pipe smokers did slightly better. see Longmate 'How we lived then'

    People in some cases grew their own tobacco just as it used to be grown, particularly around Liverpool until James I banned this in order to boost revenues for the colonies. If any supplies for Churchill look dodgy it is more likely to be the booze. Imports of wines and spirits were banned and only domestic whiskey was available and much of that went for export. Home made wines became impossible as sugar was severely rationed. Efforts were made to maintain the supply of beer but some pubs did run dry. The Navy still got its rum. Churchill's preferred tipple was good champagne but this might have seemed a bit effeminate and brandy and whisky looked better.

    Cigarette funds with fund raising event existed to supply cigarettes for the forces
  16. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

  17. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    A proposition to sell Churchill blackmarket cigars gets a mention at the very end... ;-)

    BBC Radio 4 Extra - Dad's Army, Present Arms

    Present Arms
    Dad's Army
    Military medal rivalry sparks a shooting contest between the Walmington-on-Sea and Eastgate platoons.
    The winner will provide the guard of honour for a forthcoming visit by Winston Churchill.
    The comic exploits of a Second World War Home Guard platoon.
    Extended episode adapted for radio from Jimmy Perry and David Croft's TV scripts by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles.
    Captain Mainwaring …. Arthur Lowe
    Sergeant Wilson …. John Le Mesurier
    Corporal Jones …. Clive Dunn
    Private Frazer …. John Laurie
    Private Pike …. Ian Lavender
    Private Godfrey …. Arnold Ridley
    Private Walker ...... Larry Martyn
    Chief Warden Hodges …. Bill Pertwee
    Capt. Square …. Geoffrey Lumsden
    Brigadier Bell …. Jack Watson
    The Great Alberto …. Norman Bird
    Mrs. Pike …. Pearl Hackney
    Announcer …. John Snagge
    Producer: John Dyas
    First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in December 1974.
    Wobbler likes this.


    Spike Milligan mentions that the wartime issue cigarettes, called "V"s, were India's principal production contribution to the war effort. He joked that much research and development had been conducted because they were made from India's largest commodity that they had a surplus of to pour into production of the cigarettes...

    And that magic ingredient was COW SHIT.

    The research dollars had been spent making it look like tobacco, smell like tobacco, but no matter what they did or how much money was poured into the project, they still tasted like cow shit....


    I personally believe that if the Germans had managed to knock out British cigarettes somehow, the British war effort would have ground to a complete halt.

    Another possible war winning strategy for their Eastern front, was to knock out all Vodka production and somehow deny supply of it to the Russian military and the people. The Russian war effort would have similarly ground to a complete and utter standstill for lack of Vodka production!!!!

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