In 1941, on this day British Prime Minister Winston Churchill suffered a fatal heart attack.
Quit India, Part #1
The Death of ChurchillBut a few hours before, Churchill had addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress, asking of Germany and Japan, "What kind of people do they think we are? Is it possible they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?". Click to watch the address to Joint Session Of Congress
That evening as a guest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House, Churchill rose to open a window sash, and experienced a tremour from his heart through his left arm.
In public, he had seemed to epitomize the bulldog fighting spirit but in private, the strain was taking its toll. And that strain had become intolerable since the events of 10th December. The killer blow was unwittingly delivered by telephone to Churchill's bedside by Sir Dudley Pound, the First Sea Lord - so distressed that the Prime Minister had great difficulty to discerning his message.
Pound: Prime Minister, I have to report to you that the Indomitable, Prince of Wales and the Repulse have been sunk by the Japanese - we think by aircraft. [a trusted friend of Churchill, British Admiral] Tom Phillips is drowned.
Churchill: Are you sure it's true?
Pound: There is no doubt at all.
"In all the war, I never received a more direct shock... As I turned over and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor, who were hastening back to California. Over all this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme, and we everywhere were weak and naked".
The news of Churchill's death would have profound implications for Mohandas K. Gandhi, who ironically enough had been described by the Prime Minister as a half-naked fakir. By December of 1941, the view of the Indian National Congress had changed sharply - British would probably not lose the war. Unable to rely upon the Axis Powers to force the British to "Quit India" Gandhi devised a new proposal. Click to watch the video. Whilst British forces might remain in India, their Government should depart. The key opponent of this proposal was now dead; Churchill had denied that the Atlantic Charter principle that the "right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live" applied to (his words and those of the Daily Mail) "the darker races". In a final act of irony, the successful defence of India would build a new multi-faith nation, subduing the calls for a breakaway Muslim state.