Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Churchill Series – May 1, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Many have forgotten that on the eve of WW II public opinion was divided as to whether there would be a war.

Churchill’s principal bodyguard for many years, Scotland Yard's Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, recounts an incident that occurred just before the war when Churchill, accompanied by Clementine, took a brief working vacation in France.

At the time, other than his seat in the Commons, Churchill held no public office. PM Chamberlain and his appeaser supporters had kept Churchill out of the Cabinet despite growing and strong public support for his inclusion in the government.

In his account Thompson mentions “corn,” the British word for what we call “wheat.”

My saying anything after Thompson’s account would detract from the post, so I’ll end here. Now Thompson:

During the tense days of August 1939, Miss Mary Shearburn (later to be my wife), in her secretarial capacity, accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Churchill to St Georges Motel where they stayed at the home of Madame Balsan.

The international situation fluctuated from day to day, and the British and French press alternated between optimism and pessimism about the possibility of war with confusing frequency.

On the outward journey, my wife traveled part of the way in Mr. Churchill’s car, taking notes for him. When he had finished his work he lapsed into silence, and she sat looking out of the window at the beautiful and peaceful country through which they were passing. The corn was ripe and, in its heaviness, it looked like the golden waves of a gently undulating sea.

Mr. Churchill grew graver and graver as he sat wrapped in thought, and then said slowly and sorrowfully, “Before the harvest is gathered in, we shall be at war.”
Walter Thompson, Beside the Bulldog: The Intimate Memoirs of Churchill’s Bodyguard. (Apollo Publishing) (pg. 76)