Monday, December 31, 2007

Churchill: Americans “an amazing people.”

Churchill Series readers will enjoy this post. I think many of the rest of you will, too.

In December 1931 Churchill arrived in America to begin a lecture tour. He held no government office at the time. Nevertheless, the government took the unusual step of providing him a bodyguard because he was considered a likely target for attacks, even assassination, by Irish and Asian Indian extremist groups.

It was on that tour that Churchill was struck and almost killed by a car while crossing New York’s Fifth Avenue.

During his lengthy convalescence, part of which was spent in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Churchill and his bodyguard, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, realized that on entering America they had not disclosed they were carrying pistols and had no police permits for them.

They'd each unintentionally committed criminal acts, both punishable by jail terms.

Churchill directed Thompson to take their pistols down to Police headquarters the next day and try to set matters right.

Thompson spent most of the next day at the NYC Police Headquarters. When he returned to the Waldorf, he explained to the bed-ridden Churchill what had happened.

The police had all been very polite but they’d made it clear people were not supposed to carry guns in the city.

Thompson protested that extremist groups active in the Untied States had repeatedly threatened to kill Churchill. Not only that, Thompson had read in the morning’s paper of five murders just the previous day in New York.

The police said they understood, but there were still those laws.

Thompson continued pressing. Eventually he was told the Police Commissioner himself would speak to him.

The Commissioner had been briefed on the problem. “We can’t give you official permission,” he told Thompson.

Then he added: “But if you have to use weapons, just let us know and we will square it for you.”

Churchill took it all in before telling Thompson “the Americans are an amazing people.”

And indeed we are. Happy New Year.
Tom Hickman, Churchill's Bodyguard. (pgs. 70-71)


Ralph Phelan said...


It's true, we once were an amazing people. But it's hard to picture that happening in Mayor Bloomburg's New York.