Churchill on Italian Cruise Ships: Untrue

by Richard Langworth on 20 January 2012

WSC observ­ing the Bar­bary apes on Gibral­tar, whose pop­u­la­tion he safe­guarded owing to the rumor that British rule would end if the apes dis­ap­peared, dur­ing a stop on one of his "Christina" cruises, after his retire­ment as Prime Minister.

It’s all over the Web. And entirely bogus.

After his  retire­ment, goes the story, Churchill was cruis­ing the Mediter­ranean on an Ital­ian liner  and an Ital­ian jour­nal­ist asked why a for­mer British Prime Min­is­ter chose an Ital­ian ship. “There are three things I like about being on an Ital­ian cruise ship,” Churchill sup­pos­edly says. “First, their cui­sine is unsur­passed. Sec­ond, their ser­vice is superb. And then, in time of emer­gency, there is none of this non­sense about women and chil­dren first.”

Amus­ing to some, anath­ema to oth­ers, includ­ing rel­a­tives of the Costa Con­cor­dia pas­sen­gers and many embar­rassed Ital­ians, this is NOT by Win­ston Churchill. Some have attrib­uted it to Noël Cow­ard, but reader Nel­son Brid­well (com­ment below) refers us to the Quote Inves­ti­ga­tor, which tracks it to travel writer Henry J. Allen in 1917.  It did appear in a book of Churchill quotes which—as invari­ably is the case when false quotes are given—provides nei­ther author­ity nor attribution.

Nei­ther this quo­ta­tion nor key words from it can be found in dig­i­tal scans of Churchill’s 15 mil­lion pub­lished words in books, arti­cles, speeches and pri­vate papers. Nor can I find any record of Churchill cruis­ing on an Ital­ian liner after his retire­ment as Prime Min­is­ter in 1955. (He voy­aged fre­quently on the Onas­sis yacht Christina, a Greek ves­sel of Liber­ian reg­istry, but not a cruise ship.)

A Cal­i­for­nia con­gress­woman igno­rantly com­pared the sink­ing of the Costa Con­cor­dia with that of the Titanic 100 years ago this April—which is his­tor­i­cally inane, poor ser­vice to the British crew­men of 1912, and the Ital­ians who strug­gled to save lives just recently. Churchill’s words to his wife about the Titanic serve equally to show how out of char­ac­ter would be his sup­posed remarks now cir­cu­lat­ing the Internet:

The strict obser­vance of the great tra­di­tions of the sea towards women and chil­dren reflects noth­ing but hon­our upon our civ­i­liza­tion…. I can­not help feel­ing proud of our race and its tra­di­tions as proved by this event. Boat loads of women and chil­dren toss­ing on the sea – safe and sound – and the rest Silence. Hon­our to their memory.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

秋冬 ステンカラージャケット 品質 December 5, 2013 at 00:04

Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this
blog before but after browsing through a few of the posts I realized
it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll be
bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

Nelson Bridwell January 28, 2012 at 12:48

Mr Landworth:

Your website is a genuine treasure that we look forward to exploring.

One of our acquaintances is the son of John Peck, who’s favorite quote is about being divided into two parts…

Cheers,
Nelson

Richard M. Langworth January 27, 2012 at 11:07

Well done, Mr Bridwell! That is a very thorough quote site.

This cruise ship nonsense reminds me of other Red Herrings (see that section of this site), including the line Churchill repeated (but did not coin) to Bessie Braddock MP: “tomorrow I’ll be sober.” That was W.C. Fields over a decade earlier…..

Nelson Bridwell January 26, 2012 at 18:39

Actually, it appears to go back a ways further…

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/01/21/nonsense-first/

Nelson Bridwell January 26, 2012 at 18:27

In 1948 it was attributed to Noel Coward with regard to French ships…

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19481209&id=PF0yAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jukFAAAAIBAJ&pg=6220,4585552

Monty Waters January 24, 2012 at 15:32

By coincidence, I finished Martin Gilbert’s “Winston S. Churchill: Never Despair: 1945-1965″ in December. I can affirm your research. If Churchill was ever on board an Italian cruise liner, Martin Gilbert did not record it, and there are very few details of Churchill’s life Gilbert did not record.

Richard M. Langworth January 22, 2012 at 18:34

Indeed. 1500 more people died on Titanic, and in those days the bridge depended solely on the Crow’s Nest.

James January 22, 2012 at 16:35

I think the whole Titanic vs Costa Concordia comparison is just more lazy thinking by the media (and the Cali congresswoman: pardon me, but wtf?). Facts are no longer so important in the fight for ‘eyeballs’.

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