Neville Bullock, Churchill Bodyguard, R.I.P.

Neville Bullock, Churchill Bodyguard, R.I.P.

Neville Bullock…

…a kind and decent man, died aged 92 on August 29th, sur­round­ed by his fam­i­ly. Neville had served most recent­ly as a parish and dis­trict coun­cil­lor for Billinge and Sene­ley Green. Described as a “great bloke” by his friends, he will be deeply missed by all who knew him. Among these are Churchill his­to­ri­ans, who had the ben­e­fit of his remem­brances. Bul­lock was prob­a­bly the only man alive whose encoun­ters with the great bridged Churchill in 1945 with Rudy Giu­liani in 1996.

Trained as a Roy­al Marine, aged only 19, Neville Bul­lock sud­den­ly found him­self a body­guard to the Prime Min­is­ter. It was July 1945: the last wartime sum­mit con­fer­ence, with Stal­in and Tru­man. The venue was Pots­dam, a sub­urb of Berlin. He was sta­tioned at the Vil­la Urbig in Babels­berg, req­ui­si­tioned by the occu­py­ing Red Army for the British del­e­ga­tion. Here he joined “an impres­sive array of dig­ni­taries”: Churchill, Eden, Lin­de­mann, gen­er­als and admi­rals, reg­i­men­tal colonels and adju­tants, senior offi­cers and inter­preters, jour­nal­ists and secu­ri­ty guards. His remem­brance of Churchill is worth recalling:

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Neville Bul­lock, RM, 1945

“Anchor Man of Freedom”

The Prime Min­is­ter, now into his 71st year, was still the anchor man of free­dom. His health seemed remark­ably good for his age. He was buoy­ant, walked with a cheeky swing, and did not give two hoots for any pos­si­ble dan­ger. We had no dif­fi­cul­ties secur­ing his safe­ty in the vil­la, but our job was more haz­ardous when he want­ed to look round.

Twice he went on walk­a­bouts in Berlin, plain­ly unwor­ried at being what I saw as an open tar­get. He enjoyed being Win­ston Churchill, and demand­ed all the con­sid­er­a­tion that went with his job. But he also believed he could look after him­self. It was a relief when we returned to Babels­berg and the com­par­a­tive safe­ty of Vil­la Urbig.

The Prime Min­is­ter nev­er showed any signs of fatigue, and always want­ed to “get on with it.” His spir­it car­ried our entire del­e­ga­tion. I did see him depressed once, when he looked total­ly fed up. That involved the fate of Poland. Even in my low­ly rank, I had picked up the word. Pol­ish free­dom was being extin­guished, and Churchill was dev­as­tat­ed and angry.

Although there were jour­nal­ists from all three allied nations, I found the Amer­i­cans aggres­sive in their attempts to find news—as did Mr. Churchill. Once an Amer­i­can reporter tried to ask him some­thing I could not catch. The old man snarled, “Get him out.” He and his com­rade were eject­ed. They did not appear again whilst I was on duty.

This was anoth­er instance of Mr. Churchill’s moods. He could change very quick­ly but was able to com­pen­sate just as fast. Here, I thought, is a man who does not suf­fer fools glad­ly, who radi­ates con­cen­tra­tion. Even his chief of staff, Gen­er­al Ismay, was very care­ful not to speak unless spo­ken to first.

On Drink…

Mr. Churchill would some­times joke with Lin­de­mann about the Prof’s absti­nence, which reminds me of a par­tic­u­lar­ly annoy­ing myth. It was start­ed dur­ing the war by the Ger­man pro­pa­gan­da min­is­ter Goebbels, but some his­to­ri­ans still repeat the notion that Win­ston Churchill was a drunk.

I was there and the his­to­ri­ans were not. Mr. Churchill was no more a drunk than any­one who likes a drink. He did have his favourite tip­ples, brandy or whisky, topped up with cham­pagne, and he pleased him­self when he fan­cied a glass, which helped him work. Inci­den­tal­ly, our own for­eign min­is­ter, Antho­ny Eden, always kept a bot­tle of gin or whisky handy, and he nev­er appeared to suf­fer from scur­rilous remarks.

Merseyside, England, 1996

Flash for­ward to 1996. Neville Bul­lock, now 71, was elect­ed coun­cil­lor on the St. Helens Met­ro­pol­i­tan Bor­ough Coun­cil, Mersey­side. Here he would serve for eight years. At the time Rudolph Giu­liani, May­or of New York City, who was crack­ing down on New York’s crime and street vio­lence. When he asked the May­or if he would dis­cuss his “Zero Tol­er­ance“ pol­i­cy of com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty, Giu­liani respond­ed, and the author learned the strate­gies by which the May­or and his team had cleaned up New York. The two have remained friends ever since.

A Final Tribute

The last I heard from Neville Bul­lock was fol­low­ing the death in 2014 of Lady Soames. Then 89, he sent me a trib­ute to Churchill’s great daugh­ter for a memo­r­i­al issue of Finest Hour. It was my own penul­ti­mate issue—a most suit­able occa­sion, I thought, for say­ing good-bye:

My first reac­tion on hear­ing the sad news of the pass­ing of Mary Churchill was to recall a smart, young  Army Lieu­tenant who was the offi­cial Aide-de-Camp to her father Win­ston Churchill at the Pots­dam Con­fer­ence between Churchill, Tru­man and Stal­in in July 1945. I was part of a small group of Roy­al Marines respon­si­ble for the secu­ri­ty and pro­tec­tion of the British Cab­i­net, more specif­i­cal­ly WSC and Prof Lin­der­mann (Lord Cher­well).  Now that Mary has rejoined her fam­i­ly I would like to add my great­est respects to that young, smart, effi­cient Lieu­tenant I remem­ber from 1945.

I pay now my own great respect to that old, smart, effi­cient Roy­al Marine, Neville Bul­lock. His career took him to close encoun­ters with his­to­ry. He was kind to share those expe­ri­ences with the rest of us.

“Neville always want­ed to help oth­ers with­out mak­ing a fuss,” his friend Jim Steven­son told Wigan Today. “He couldn’t have put any more into his life.”

Bullock

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