Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Churchill Series - Apr. 24, 2008

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

Today we learn the twenty-two year old Lieutenant Churchill jumped at the chance to take leave from his regiment in India and return to London for “the season.” He visits Italy on the trip home.

From Churchill’s My Early Life:

With the approach of the hot weather season of 1897 it became known that a proportion of officers might have what was called “three months’ accumulated privilege” leave to England. Having so newly arrived hardly anybody wanted to go. I thought it was a pity that such good things should go a–begging, and I therefore volunteered to fill the gap.

I sailed from Bombay towards the end of May in sweltering heat, rough weather and fearful sea-sickness. […]

(Once in the eastern Mediterranean, Churchill left the ship to visit Italy. JinC)

I spent a fortnight in Italy, climbing Vesuvius, “doing” Pompeii and, above all, seeing Rome. I read again the sentences in which Gibbon has described the emotions with which in his later years for the first time he approached the Eternal City, and thought I had none of his credentials of learning it was not without reverence that I followed in his footsteps.

The formed a well-conceived prelude to the gaieties of the London season.
Churchill’s brother officers no doubt passed on the opportunity for home leave for two reasons. For most of them the expenses of the journey would have been a strain. And they were anxious to get on with their duties in their first overseas assignment. They knew if they did well, it would help them in their Army careers.

But travel expanses were not a concern for Churchill, and while he served bravely and with skill, the Army was for him always a means to an end located at 10 Downing Street, London.