Living Hot-Water Bottle
Q. “Rab” Butler, Churchill’s Minister of Education (1941-45) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1951-55), recalled that Churchill once told him he was doing less for the war effort than Churchill’s grey cat Nelson, who saved fuel and power by acting as a Prime Ministerial hot-water bottle. True?
A. Yes. Butler said this in a speech to the Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Society of Edmonton, Alberta. (This was the original Churchill Society, the only one sanctioned by Churchill personally). Butler spoke at their annual dinner on 6 May 1968. His speech is reprinted in The Heroic Memory, vol. 1, speeches from 1965 to 1989. Butler recalled that had drafted a paper for Churchill to sign, which the PM found unsatisfactory:
I saw him at an early hour of the morning having had very little sleep, but he dismissed my efforts immediately, saying that his cat could do more for the war effort than your humble servant. I asked him why, and he said, “At any rate, my cat is at least a hot water bottle to me, and you do damn little for the war effort.” But in the end, when he drafted the paragraphs they were far superior to mine.
Not an idea but a coincidence
WSC: “Sawyers, where is my hot-water bottle?”Sawyers: “You are sitting on it, sir. Not a very good idea.”WSC: “It’s not an idea, it’s a coincidence.”
Rolled up like a hedgehog
“We arrived well up to schedule by 10 a.m. There we were met by General de Lattre, the Préfet, the Mayor and a mass of other officials. Outside the station a band, a guard of honour and a large crowd. We solemnly stood in the snow whilst most of “God Save the King,” the “Stars and Stripes” and “La Marseillaise” were played through.Winston at lunch. He arrived completely frozen and almost rolled up on himself like a hedgehog. He was placed in a chair with a hot-water-bottle at his feet and one in the back of his chair; at the same time good brandy was poured down his throat to warm him internally. The results were wonderful, he thawed out rapidly and when the time came produced one of those indescribably funny French speeches which brought the house down.
I am going to give you a warning: be on your guard, because I am going to speak, or try to speak, in French, a formidable undertaking and one which will put great demands on your friendship for Great Britain.