13 February 1945
On 13 February 1945, during the closing weeks of the Second World War, Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander was attending a lavish lunch on board the luxurious ocean liner SS Franconia with Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a few senior government officials. As his fellow diners gorged themselves on the extravagant spread, Alexander summoned up the courage to ask Churchill if it was possible to allow some extra food supplies to be sent to Italy, where millions were facing starvation. The Field Marshal added ‘after all, that was more or less what we were fighting this war for – to secure liberty and decent existence for the people of Europe.’ Sir Alexander Cadogan, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, who was also present, noted Churchill’s terse response in his diary. ‘Not a bit of it: We are fighting to secure the proper respect for the British people !’1
- Peter Clarke, The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: The Demise of a Superpower 1944-47, Penguin Books, 2008, p. 227.
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