Friday, July 11, 2008

The Churchill Series - July 11, 2008

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

Let's end the week smiling.

Here are two of Churchill's favorite stories I've told before in this series.

They concern Col. Sir John Brabazon, who commanded the Fourth Hussars, the cavalry regiment Churchill joined in 1895 following his graduation from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

Churchill was very fond of Brabazon, a war hero and by all accounts a fine officer. Churchill described him as "very strict, but fair." He also said what many of Brabazon's friends said of him: he was strong-willed, charming when he wished to be, and a bit of a dandy with a sense of entitlement. He was also a friend of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

Now to those Brabazon stories Churchill loved to tell:

Brabazon arrived at the station late for a train.

"Where is the London train," he asked the stationmaster.

"It has gone, Colonel."

"Gone? Then bring another one."

In Queen Victoria's army it was common practice to appoint as regimental colonels officers who'd served most of their careers in the regiments they were selected to lead. Appointing an "outsider" was considered a slap at the regiment, particularly its senior officers.

When Brabazon was appointed to lead the Fourth Hussars, he was an "outsider," having spent most of his career in the Tenth Hussars.

As Churchill explained it, "outsider" colonels usually did their best to win over the officers and men. And Brabazon did that in the cases of the enlisted men and the junior officers like himself.

But he gave the senior officers no quarter and, if anything, went out of his way to let them know that.

One evening in the midst of a formal regimental dinner shortly after he'd joined the Fourth Hussars, Brabazon turned to the officer who was president of the regimental mess and asked: "And what chemist do you get this champagne from?"

Churchill and Brabazon remained friends until Brabazon's death in 1922.

I hope you all have nice weekends and are back on Monday.



Anonymous said...

Don't forget, to our British cousins, a chemist is a druggist.
Tarheel Hawkeye