Churchill on Italian Cruise Ships: Untrue

Churchill on Italian Cruise Ships: Untrue

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.

8 thoughts on “Churchill on Italian Cruise Ships: Untrue

  1. 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…


  2. 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…..

  3. 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.

  4. 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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