Month: March 2015

Churchill’s Common Touch (3)

Churchill’s Common Touch (3)

con­tin­ued from part 2…

Part 3: Ser­vants and Staff

Win­ston Churchill was a Vic­to­ri­an, with most of the atti­tudes of his class and time toward the com­mon folk. “Ser­vants exist to save one trou­ble,” he told his wife in 1928, “and sh[oul]d nev­er be allowed to dis­turb one’s inner peace.”

Once before World War II he arrived in a vio­lent rain­storm at his friend Max­ine Elliott’s Chateau d’Horizon in the South of France. “My dear Max­ine,” he said as she ush­ered him in, “do you realise I have come all the way from Lon­don with­out my man?” Nev­er lost for words, Elliott replied: “Win­ston, how ter­ri­bly brave of you.” (Quo­ta­tions from Churchill by Him­self.)

“When any­one came to his staff,” his his 1946-47 Scot­land Yard body­guard Ronald Gold­ing told me,

Churchill treat­ed them much as one of the fam­i­ly.…

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Churchill’s Common Touch (2)

Churchill’s Common Touch (2)

Con­tin­ued from Part I…

Part 2: Alice Bate­man

Two oth­er West­er­ham com­mon folk who ben­e­fit­ted from Churchill’s char­ac­ter­is­tic kind­li­ness were Tom and Alice Bate­man, farm­ers who scratched out a liv­ing near Chartwell. Per­cy Reid, a stringer for a Lon­don news­pa­per, who kept an eye on Chartwell doings after World War II, wrote charm­ing­ly of a cat­tle sale in his book, Churchill: Towns­man of West­er­ham (Folke­stone: Regency, 1969):

Capt. and Mrs. [Mary Churchill] Soames—who then lived at Chartwell Farm—were at the sale most of the time and [their chil­dren] Nicholas and Emma were also tak­ing a child’s inter­est in what was going on.…

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Churchill’s Common Touch (1)

Churchill’s Common Touch (1)

Part 1: Mr & Mrs Don­key Jack

A recent book by a dis­tin­guished his­to­ri­an sug­gests that Win­ston Churchill dis­dained com­mon peo­ple. It cites anoth­er Prime Min­is­ter, H.H. Asquith, dur­ing World War I, pro­vid­ing a tow to a bro­ken-down motorist and giv­ing two chil­dren a lift in his car. The writer adds: “It is hard to imag­ine Win­ston Churchill behav­ing in such a fash­ion.”

It is not hard at all. In fact, Churchill did fre­quent kind things for ordi­nary peo­ple he encoun­tered, pri­vate­ly and with­out fan­fare. We know about them only through his pri­vate cor­re­spon­dence, thanks to the offi­cial biog­ra­phy, Mar­tin Gilbert, or the tes­ti­mo­ny of observers.…

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