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. A daughter of one of the cows offered for sale that day grazed quietly in a less distinguished field nearby. As a calf it had been given to Tom and Alice Bateman, brother and sister, farming in a small way nearby, by Winston Churchill when he heard that they had been out of luck in their farming.
“Pedigree?” repeated Alice when asked about her two-year old Shorthorn: “I suppose we could have had the pedigree if we’d liked but then—we don’t farm their way.” A touch of rural common sense cropped up: “The paper wouldn’t make much difference to whether it was a good cow or not.”
Not surprisingly Alice Bateman had lots of time for Churchill. “Got more in his little finger than most of us have in our whole bodies,” she said. Alice worked for three years at Chartwell. “Not to sleep in,” she made clear, quickly. “Always has a word for you, has Winston. So has Mary, his daughter.”
Phil Johnson, a Westerham livery agent and sometime Churchill driver, told me a delightful story showing another side to Alice. Once the great man, being driven up the hill to Chartwell from Westerham village, found her trudging along the road to her farm and stopped his Humber limousine. His impulse was to offer her a lift, but realizing she would be too proud to accept one, he shouted encouragement: “Come on Alice, you can do better than that!”
“G’wan, you fat old man, you get out of that car and walk yourself, you’ll live longer!” Alice retorted.
“I’ll outlive you, Alice!” chuckled Churchill, who liked to claim (inaccurately) that he took exercise only as a pallbearer for friends who had exercised all their lives. “You will not!” Alice shot back. “And he didn’t,” Phil Johnson added, “Alice survived him by six or eight years.“
“Kent folk don’t make friends easily,” wrote Percy Reid. “Theirs is a sturdy independence which is readily mistaken for surly insularity. Once won over, however, Kentish people will remain your sincere if somewhat over-frank friends for good. It was somewhat on these lines that the unusual relationship, which finally developed between Westerham folk and Churchill and his family, grew up.”
With thanks for kind assistance in research to Paul Courtenay, Phil Johnson and Andrew Roberts, and to a dear friend, the late Grace Hamblin.