Another conspiracy that is quite plausible is that the real target of this vile Nazi attack may have been Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself. Churchill at the time of the event was in Algiers to survey the progress in the Mediterranean, and was due back to Britain by air flight any day. Adding to the suspicions may have been Howard’s close friend and tax advisor, a man who resembled an uncanny resemblance to Churchill. His name was Alfred Chennels. He was a chubby bald man and, heck, even smoked cigars just like the big man himself!
Of course, every mystery has other suspects, and this flight is no exception as there were other passengers who may have been the prime target. Among them mining engineer Ivan Sharpe whose activities in Portugal were seriously affecting Germany’s armaments industry. Another, was Wilfried Israel, Scion of the Berlin Jewish Dinasty and – guess what! – his story of the rescue work with the Kindertransport had inspired Howard’s film Pimpernel Smith.
No matter what, there is no doubt about the fact that Leslie Howard was fearless in his exposure to German hostility in the hope of helping Britain in any way possible. By acting, in fact, like a true suave spy, and speaking so loudly and effectively in favour of Allied mentality, he put his life in tremendous risk.
So, why did he do it? Well, let’s go back to the point we made earlier. Leslie Howard’s personal Jewish connections came from his own father. Leslie Howard may have looked like a true British gentlemen as much as his ‘Pimpernel’ Smith co-star David Niven, but he was the son af a Hungarian Jew who had emigrated from Vienna to Britain in the late 19th century. When he was only five years old, his family too had had to escape the stronghold of the effects of Anti-Semitism. Perhaps this was the actor’s main drive to his fearless tactics and behaviour that sadly led to his heroic death.
(There’s a film in there somewhere.)