Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Churchill Series - Jan. 3, 2007

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

Readers Note: This post was first published on Dec. 3, 2005. It's one of my series' favorites.


On the night of October 14, 1940 Churchill was dining at 10 Downing Street when a German bombing raid began.

A part of the Treasury Building, not fifty yards from Number 10, suffered a direct hit before Churchill and aides could get to a shelter.

Churchill refused to remain for long in the shelter. He soon went to the roof of the building that housed it, and there witnessed the raid. He later wrote:

The night was clear and there was a wide view of London. It seemed the greater part of Pall Mall was in flames. (There were) fierce St. James Street and Piccadilly. Farther back over the river in the opposite direction there were many conflagrations. But Pall Mall was the vivid flame-picture
Pall Mall was then as now the location of many of London's private clubs , including then but not now its most prestigious, The Carleton Club, whose membership has traditionally included the leaders and other important members of Churchill's Conservative Party.

Churchill later received a first-hand account of the Carleton's destruction from one of its members:
He was in the club with about two hundred and fifty members and staff.
The whole of the facade and the massive coping on the Pall Mall side (fell into) the street obliterating his motor-car.
The smoking-room had been full of members, and the whole ceiling had come down upon them.
However, by what seemed a miracle, they had all crawled out of the dust, smoke, and rubble, and thought many were injured not a single life was lost.
While to Churchill the survival of his Conservative Party colleagues "seemed a miracle," Laborites had another explanation, which Churchill duly recorded:
(In) Cabinet, our Labour colleagues facetiously remarked, "The Devil looks after his own."
Winston S. Churchill, Their Finest Hour. (pgs. 346-348)


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