Churchill's wish to see Hitler executed

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A side of Winston Churchill's character rarely glimpsed " that of the vengeful, rather than magnanimous, war leader " has emerged in hitherto secret government documents. They reveal that he wanted to take the unprecedented step of sending Adolf Hitler to the electric chair, had he been captured, and was also content to see Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi starve to death during a hunger strike in 1943.

The Prime Minister, talking in a War Cabinet meeting in July 1942, described Hitler as 'the mainspring of evil' and, in his flamboyant fashion, jokingly suggested leasing an electric chair " known as 'Old Sparky'" from the Americans to execute him like 'a gangster' if and when he was caught.

The new insight into Churchill's deep anger and bitter hatred for the Nazi Fuhrer " whom he held responsible for more than half a million British casualties " comes in a set of classified Cabinet Office notebooks, released by the National Archives this week. The notes, taken by the Deputy Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook during some of the most critical top- level meetings of the war, shed fresh light on the thoughts and fears of Britain's leaders during the period.

The argument over how to deal with the Nazi leadership, if and when they were captured, resurfaces a number of times in the hand-written diaries.

At one key meeting, on 6 July 1942, Churchill says: 'If Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death. [He is] not a sovereign who could be said to be in [the] hands of Ministers, like [the] Kaiser.'

The Prime Minister then goes on to outline his preferred method for Hitler's execution: the most torturous means available " the electric chair. He even jokes to cabinet colleagues that one might be available on 'lease- lend' from the US.

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