(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
Tuesday, 6 Feb. 1940.
The destroyer HMS Boadicea waits at a quay in France to take British government leaders back to England following a meeting with their French counterparts.
The British leaders, including the First Lord of the Admiralty, soon appear.
We learn some of what happened next thanks to First Lieutenant Hubert Fox, Boadicea's Gunnery Officer, who wrote his father the following day:
We lay at the quay at Boulogne waiting to take them back.The stockers’ mess deck would have been in one of the lowest and smelliest parts of the ship. Very few VIP’s would more than stick their head down there. But there was the First Lord telling yarns.
Presently the neat figure of Neville Chamberlain approached, surrounded by his retinue like a popular master at a preparatory school conducting the Sunday walk. One or two of the boys preferred to trudge along by themselves. Among these was Winston Churchill.
They came on board, most of them going up to the bridge where they watched all that happened with great animation. The Prime Minister got chill so we had some soup brought up to him.
Warm in the wardroom, Churchill growled, “Tell the Prime Minister to come and have some gin.”
Churchill sat in the wardroom at the long polished table drinking port and sucking a cigar. He was flicking over the pages of “Blighty,” a popular magazine with pictures of ladies without clothes.
Later we lost him altogether for a time and eventually found him on the stockers’ mess deck, sitting on a mess table swapping yarns.
No wonder the tars always loved having him on board.
The extract of G.O. Fox’s letter is found on pg. 148 of Martin Gilbert’s Finest Hour, volume VI of Winston S. Churchill. (Houghton Mifflin, 1983)