A cruise to remember
The Hillsdale College Cruise in June 2019 is a spectacular journey around Britain. Looking at the calendar, you will find that it coincides with a historic event, the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Around that same time, Hillsdale College Press publishes the final document volume of Winston S. Churchill, the official biography. This marks completion of the great work, fifty-six years since the project began. The longest biography in history, it offers a trove of new material for readers, students and scholars.
Hillsdale cruises have a fine reputation. They are exclusive, high quality educational tours of exciting venues, combined with stimulating on-board lectures on a variety of subjects. Barbara and I are honored to be aboard along with Hillsdale President Dr. Larry Arnn, Byron York of the Washington Examiner, and other lecturers. We would be delighted to have you with us. Itinerary and contacts: click here.
Some points of note: The cruise price includes round-trip business airfare for two, so if you can get to London on points or on your own, there are substantial savings. The cruise includes all meals, drinks, gratuities and shore excursions—no annoying surprise bills at the end. Launched in 2015, the Regent Seven Seas Explorer takes only 750 passengers and has a crew of 552, a ratio suggesting the level of service offered.
Places in time
While this is not strictly a Churchill cruise, I am sure my task will be to advance understanding of the great man. Many places we will pass or visit played their part in what Lady Soames called “The Saga.” I would be interested to hear from anyone on venues they might particularly like to hear more about. Here are some:
South and East
Cowes, Isle of Wight: Randolph and Jennie met at Cowes Regatta, 1874
Portsmouth: HMS Victory and National Museum of the Royal Navy
Spithead, Isle of Wight: Churchill orders fleet not to disperse after Naval Review, August 1914
Cinque Ports, Hastings, Rye, Hythe, Dover, Sandwich: Churchill was Lord Warden, 1941-65
Folkestone: farthest point of shelling by German cross-Channel batteries, September 1943
Dover Castle: Admiral Ramsay’s HQ for Dunkirk evacuation, Operation Dynamo, May 1940
Normandy: Invasion of Europe, 6 June 1944.
Broadstairs, Kent: Marigold Churchill’s death, 1921; Monty’s HQ in WW2
Overstrand, near Cromer, Norfolk: Churchills holidayed here as WW1 broke out, 1914
Scarborough, Whitby, Hartepool: German shellling spurs Churchill to retaliate, 1914
Dirleton, East Lothian: Asquith offers Churchill the Admiralty, 1911
Edinburgh: HMY Britannia, Scottish National Museum
Firth of Forth Fleet Anchorage: High Seas Fleet surrendered, 1918; scuttled, 1919
Dundee: Churchill’s constituency 1908-22, with numerous speech venues
St. Andrews: Churchill’s brief career as a golfer, 1912-15
Scapa Flow, Orkney, Fleet Anchorage: Royal Oak sunk, 1939; Churchill Barriers erected
Loch Ewe, Fleet Anchorage: “Strangely oppressed by my memories,” 1939
Inverary Castle: Combined Operations and Allied Commando Training Centre, 1940-44
Stranraer: Port of departure/arrival to Washington to plan Invasion of North Africa, June 1942
Belfast: WSC, defying clamor, speaks out for Home Rule, 1911
Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland: Lusitania torpedoed, Churchill blamed, 1915
Reminiscence: Scotland, 1939
It is moving to recall Churchill’s words “in sterner days.” Our cruise passes northern Scotland. There I always think of Scapa Flow, which captivated me long ago. On one of our Churchill Tours, we were shown around Scapa by Lord Jellicoe, the Admiral’s son. On a pilot vessel we observed the sunken HMS Royal Oak, still oozing oil like the USS Arizona, on the bottom. Every year in a ceremony, Royal Navy divers place a White Ensign on her stern.
In 1949, Churchill recalled his visit there ten years before. He was First Lord of the Admiralty, almost exactly twenty-five years since he first held the post….
I felt it my duty to visit Scapa at the earliest moment….I stayed with the Commander-in-Chief in his flagship, Nelson, and discussed not only Scapa but the whole naval problem with him and his principal officers…. the Admiral took me [to Loch Ewe] on the Nelson…. It was like the others a lovely day…. On every side rose the purple hills of Scotland in all their splendour. My thoughts went back a quarter of a century to that other September when I had last visited Sir John Jellicoe and his captains in this very bay, and had found them with their long lines of battleships and cruisers drawn out at anchor, a prey to the same uncertainties as now afflicted us….
An entirely different generation filled the uniforms and the posts…. It seemed that I was all that survived in the same position I had held so long ago. But no; the dangers had survived too. Danger from beneath the waves, more serious with more powerful U-boats; danger from the air, not merely of being spotted in your hiding-place, but of heavy and perhaps destructive attack!
I motored from Loch Ewe to Inverness, where our train awaited us. We had a picnic lunch on the way by a stream, sparkling in hot sunshine. I felt oddly oppressed with my memories. “For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, And tell sad stories of the death of kings.”
* * *
No one had ever been over the same terrible course twice with such an interval between. No one had felt its dangers and responsibilities from the summit as I had, or, to descend to a small point, understood how First Lords of the Admiralty are treated when great ships are sunk and things go wrong.
If we were in fact going over the same cycle a second time, should I have once again to endure the pangs of dismissal? Fisher, Wilson, Battenberg, Jellicoe, Beatty, Pakenham, Sturdee, all gone!
I feel like one
Who treads alone,
Some banquet-hall deserted
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed.
And what of the supreme, measureless ordeal in which we were again irrevocably plunged? Poland in its agony. France but a pale reflection of her former warlike ardour. The Russian Colossus no longer an ally, not even neutral, possibly to become a foe. Italy no friend. Japan no ally. Would America ever come in again? The British Empire remained intact and gloriously united, but ill-prepared, unready. We still had command of the sea. We were woefully outmatched in numbers in this new mortal weapon of the air. Somehow the light faded out of the landscape.” —WSC, Their Finest Hour, 339