Churchill as Motorist

Churchill as Motorist

Could you tell me if Win­ston Churchill drove an auto­mo­bile?  I’m inter­est­ed in estab­lish­ing whether the major World War II lead­ers, on both sides, could dri­ve a car.  So far, I know only that Franklin Roo­sevelt drove his own Ford at Hyde Park (hand con­trols but he was his own dri­ver when he need­ed to be).  This may seem an odd line of inves­ti­ga­tion, but I think it might be illu­mi­nat­ing. —P.C., New Hampshire

Driving what appears to be a Wolseley, Birdcage Walk, Westminster, 1925. (Churchill was then Chancellor of the Exchequer.) Note the ding in the right front fender!
Dri­ving what appears to be a Wolse­ley, Bird­cage Walk, West­min­ster, 1925. (Churchill was then Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer.) Note the ding in the right front fender!

I have a long-sim­mer­ing arti­cle about Churchill and auto­mo­biles; he owned quite an assort­ment, from  Mor­ris­es and Land Rovers to a big Daim­ler giv­en him by his friends in 1932. But most of the time he was driven—virtually always after 1930, even around his farm­lands at Chartwell, by the “duty Mor­ris” and after­wards a Land Rover. Lady Churchill drove until quite late in life; her last car was a Van­den Plas Princess in the 1960s.

Parking the Wolseley, same time and place as above.
Same car, prob­a­bly, but this pho­to is dat­ed 1929.

Churchill drove him­self at least ear­ly on, but he was dan­ger­ous behind the wheel. Always impa­tient for progress, he thought noth­ing of dri­ving up on the side­walk (“pave­ment” in Britain) to get around traf­fic jams. This occa­sion­al­ly put him in trou­ble with local con­sta­bles, who let him off with a warn­ing when they rec­og­nized him. I have only run into a few pho­tos of him behind the wheel of a Wolse­ley in 1925. I notice the car has a nice ding in its right front fender.

Roo­sevelt too was a scary dri­ver with those dicey hand con­trols, at least when Churchill rode along­side him. The lat­ter wrote that they came pre­car­i­ous­ly close to the cliffs over­look­ing the Hud­son near Hyde Park, in FDR’s Ford V-8, and he was glad when they arrived back at the house.

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