Monday, June 30, 2008

The Churchill Series - Jun. 30, 2008

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

On October 25, 1951, Churchill, a month shy of his seventy-seventh birthday, led the Conservatives to victory in the General Election. So for a second time King George VI asked Churchill to form a government.

The new Prime Minister immediately set to work at his Hyde Park Gate London home in to form his government. Of course, he asked many of those who’d served with him during WWII to join the new government. One of them was Lord Hastings (“Pug”) Ismay, a close friend who during the war headed the Defense Office.

Ismay had gone to bed and was sleeping when the call came:

I was told that Mr. Churchill wanted to speak to me. There were many people sitting by their telephones that night, hoping, and perhaps praying, that the new Prime Minister might have something to offer them, but these were problems which were no concern of mine.

The conversation was brief.

“Is that you, Pug?”

“Yes, Prime Minister. It’s grand to be able to call you Prime Minister again.”

“I want to see you at once. You aren’t in bed, are you?”

“I’ve been asleep for over an hour.”

“Well, I only want to see you for five minutes.”

I put my head under a cold tap, dressed in record time, and was at 28, Hyde Park Gate within a quarter of an hour of being wakened.

Mr. Churchill was alone in his drawing-room, and told me, without any preliminaries, that he wanted me to be Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.

I thought that the cold tap had failed to do its work and that I was still dreaming, but Mr. Churchill brushed aside my doubts and hustled me into the dining-room where I found Mr. Eden, Lord Salisbury, Sir Norman Brook, and a bevy of secretaries working away on a variety of drafts.

The years rolled back. It was like old times.
Isn’t Ismay’s account wonderful!

I’ll say more about it in tomorrow’s post.
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Never Despair, 1945 – 1965 (pgs. 653-654)