Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Churchill Series – Oct. 9, 2007

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

On Sept. 12, 1940, with the London Blitz underway, Churchill thought to move the times of Cabinet and Ministerial meetings forward, so that when the nightly raids began, ministers and others would more likely be in shelters at their homes or offices than at 10 Downing Street, which lacked a satisfactory shelter because it sits on soft ground.

What follows is from a memorandum Churchill sent that September day to Sir Edward Bridges, Secretary to the Cabinet.

As you read it, think of what Churchill’s principal bodyguard during the war, Scotland Yard Detective-Inspector Walter Thompson, often said of Churchill: “Nothing escapes Winston’s attention.”

You’ll also see in the memorandum a wonderful example of the impish sense of humor which helped sustain Churchill in those dark hours.

Prime Minister to Sir Edward Bridges:

Will you kindly convey to the Cabinet and Ministers the suggestion which I make that our hours should be somewhat advanced. Luncheon should be at one o’clock, and Cabinet times moved forward by half an hour. In principle, it will be convenient if we aim at an earlier dinner-hour, say, 7:15 P.M.

Darkness falls earlier, and for the next few weeks severe bombing may be expected once the protection of the fighter aircraft is withdrawn.

It would be a good thing if staffs and servants could be under shelter as early as possible, and Ministers are requested to arrange to work in places of reasonable security during the night raids, and especially to find places for sleeping where they will not be disturbed by anything but a direct hit.

The full text of the memorandum can be found on pgs. 355-356 of Their Finest Hour, vol. II Churchill’s The Second World War. (Houghton Mifflin, 1949)