Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Churchill Series - Apr. 7, 2008

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

Reader’s Note: Previous posts dealing with John(Jack) Strange Spencer Churchill (1880-1947) and his relationship with his only brother and sibling, Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965), are here, here, here, here, and here.

Chartwell guest books for the 1920s and 30s reveal Jack Churchill, his wife Goonie, and their children were Winston and Clementine’s most frequent overnight guests.

In 1929 Winston, his son Randolph, Jack and his son John toured Canada and the American West coast together, visiting among other places William Randolph Hearst’s castle home at San Simeon. (Churchill used the occasion to arrange with Hearst to write a series of articles for his papers.)

During the years between the wars Jack worked as a financier. He was a man working “in the City”, a British expression that conveys much the same thing as “ works in Wall Street” conveys in America.

It was no doubt extremely difficult for Jack to be Winston’s brother and not fall to saying at least a few indiscreet things or get drawn into deals in which others were hoping to take advantage of Jack's relationship with his brother who for five years during the 20's was Chancellor of the Exchequer and later influenced as Lord of the Admiralty and Prime Minister the awarding of contracts worth billions. Or worst of all, to actively seek to use his relationship for own gain.

But Jack did none of that while still serving as confidant and sounding board for his powerful brother.

In 1940 Goonie’s health became a concern. She was subsequently diagnosed with cancer, and moved from London to the country, which was thought better for her health. Jack remained to work in the city and come out on weekends to be with Goonie. She died in 1941.

Jack continued to work in the City. His house was bombed and thereafter he moved in with Winston and Clementine at 10 Downing Street and in the Annexe, the nearby bomb shelter Churchill and other government leaders and their principal aides used. He was often the last person Churchill spoke to at night.

In 1945. Jack suffered a heart attack. Thereafter his health deteriorated. He died on Feb 23, 1947, age 67 years. He was buried next to his parents in the Bladon Churchyard a mile from Blenheim Palace. Eighteen years later, his brother Winston was laid to rest beside him.

At the time of Jack’s death, The Times of London noted he'd remained throughout his life “on the closest terms with his elder brother.”
For background I've relied on Speaking for Themselves: The personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill (Mary Soames, Editor), Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Life and Richard Hough’s Winston and Clementine: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Churchills.