Neville Bullock, Churchill Bodyguard, R.I.P.
…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:
“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.
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.”
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