I recently gave a talk about Churchill’s Second Darkest Hour after the loss of Hong Kong, Singapore and Burma, when he was passed a telegram by President Roosevelt on 21 June informing him that Tobruk had surrendered without a fight. He later wrote about the bitter shame he felt: “Defeat is one thing; disgrace is another.” However, before travelling to North Africa to sort out the army’s mess, he had to face down his opponents in Parliament during a vote of censure about his leadership. In the two-day debate, he delivered another of his great speeches and won the vote emphatically on 2 July, while the first battle of El Alamein raged in Egypt.
After changing the Army Commanders in the Middle East and holding a tetchy meeting with Stalin in August, the Prime Minister returned to London and received yet more bad news when HRH The Duke of Kent was killed in a Sunderland Flying Boat, during a mission to Iceland, while serving with the Royal Air Force.
Churchill had to send an immediate telegram on 25 August to King George VI in Scotland: “Mr Churchill with his humble duty to Your Majesty STOP Sir it is with intense sorrow that I have just learned your brave and charming brother this day killed in action STOP pray allow me to offer my deepest sympathy for the loss of a beloved brother which Your Majesty has sustained STOP” as well as to Queen Mary of Teck and to the Duke of Windsor, who was Governor of the Bahamas.
The secret report of the tragedy shows how similar it was to the 1994 Chinook crash on Mull. It was deemed that the Duke’s funeral four days later would not be a major event since the war situation was so bleak. However, a significant memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday 9th September at 12.30 pm.