Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Churchill Series – May 31, 2007

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

One evening in December, 1931 while in New York City, Churchill was struck by an automobile as he crossed Fifth Avenue on his way to visit his friend, Bernard Baruch. As he stepped into the street, he had looked right which is the proper direction to look in Britain, forgetting to look left now that he was in America. He never saw the car coming.

Churchill’s injuries were serious and required a seven day hospital stay followed by two weeks in bed at his hotel. Churchill was slow to recover and in considerable pain for many weeks.

In an effort to ease his recovery, his doctors agreed it would be good for him to go to the warm Bahamas where he could get out in the sun. Churchill’s bodyguard, Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, had accompanied him on the trip. He tells us of an incident in the Bahamas:

Mr. Churchill is a man of infinite courage, but once he gave me the impression of being frightened.

It was in the Bahamas at Nassau early in 1932. He had gone there to recuperate after his accident in New York. The hotel at which he stayed was on the corner of a main road, and he was still very weak.

One morning we were out for a walk, and as we came out of the hotel a Ford car came round the corner very fast…

There was no pavement, and Winston clasped my arm and learned back against the wall, trembling. His face had gone as white as a sheet and beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead.

I was alarmed at this and said to him, gently, “Sir, you really must not do that. Try to pull yourself together.”

I could feel him bracing himself before he replied, “Yes, Thompson, it was silly of me, but it won’t occur again.”

It never did.
None of us would agree it was “silly” of Churchill to react as he did. On the other hand, I think we’d all agree with Thompson that “Mr. Churchill [was] a man of infinite courage.”

Walter Thompson, Beside The Bulldog: The Intimate Memoirs Of Churchill’s Bodyguard. (Apollo Publishing) (pg. 75)