(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
Following the Conservatives’ election victory on October 25, 1951, Churchill became Prime Minister again. He got right to work forming a new government.
The man who served during part of WW II as Churchill’s Principal Private Secretary, Jock Colville, tells us about a call to serve in the new government. Colville was with his wife enjoying a day at the Newmarket races when :
As I watched the races and contemplated my losses (endemic, as far as I am concerned, on a race-course) an agitated official emerged from the Jockey Club Stand and asked if I was Mr. Colville.Colville was a Private Secretary to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain when Churchill assumed the premiership on May 10, 1940. Churchill knew Colville admirered Chamberlain and had been a supporter of appeasement. But he kept Colville on because he felt he needed Colville's knowledge and the continuity he'd provide in the Private Secretary's office.
When I assented, he said, “It’s the Prime Minister wants you on the telephone.”
“Whatever he asks you to do,” advised my innately cautious wife, say ‘No’”
[On the phone I heard the] familiar voice: “Would you, if it is not inconvenient (but do pray say if it is), take a train to London and come to see me?”
“No, this afternoon.”
Of course I did, and was invited to be the new Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary.
Starting as a critic who doubted Churchill's ability to lead Britain, Colville gradually developed a deep respect for his leadership and a great fondness for him. In time, Colville and his wife became two of Winston and Clementine's closest friends.