(One of a series of weekend posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
Let’s end the week with another account of Churchill under enemy fire and lucky to escape with his life.
It’s mid-April 1900. Churchill has been taking part in the Boer War as both a serving officer and a war correspondent for the Morning Post, a most unusual arrangement Churchill obtained through family influence and over the objections of the senior officers in the field.
In Churchill: Wanted Dead or Alive his granddaughter, Celia Sandys, recounts an incident in which Churchill, accompanying a troop of mounted scouts, found himself in a trap (WSC’s words from his Morning Post account of the incident are in quotation marks):
Then the Scouts were forced to dismount, some hundred yards from the hilltop, to cut a wire fence barring their way.Together they made it to safety. Had they not we might notice in an encyclopedia entry for Lord Randolph Churchill a line noting his eldest son, Winston, then age 25, was killed during the Boer War.
The delay was fatal to their venture and very nearly fatal for the Morning Post’s correspondent.
The heads of a dozen Boers appeared above the rocks, “grim, hairy and terrible.” There were obviously many more behind them.
“‘Too late,’ McNeill called, ‘back to the other kopje [hill]. Gallop!’
Then the musketry crashed out, and the ‘swish’ and ‘whir’ of bullets filled the air. I put my foot in the stirrup. The horse terrified at the firing, plunged wildly.”
When Churchill tried to spring into the saddle it slipped and his horse, breaking away, galloped after the fast-disappearing Scouts: “I was alone, dismounted, within the closest range, within the closest range, and a mile at least from cover of nay kind”
For the second time in South Africa, Churchill had to run for his life from Boer riflemen.
Then a lone rider appeared ahead of him. From his cap badge he was a member of Montmorency’s Scouts, “a tall man, with a skull and crossbones badge, and on a pale horse. Death in Revelation, but life to me.”
Churchill called for a stirrup and when to his surprise the man stopped, mounted behind him.
Please look tomorrow, Sunday, for a post concerning JinC “editors.” I’ll mention a series comment made earlier this week regarding Churchill’s use of a Mauser pistol at Omdurman.
Have a restful weekend