Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Churchill Series - July 15, 2008

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

In early September, 1918 Churchill, then Minister of Munitions in Lloyd George’s Government, crossed the Channel to meet in France with military leaders. Instead of sailing across, he flew.

On Sept. 8 he wrote Clementine from France about his flight. Some of his language might lead you to believe he sailed, but in those days it was common to use the language of the seas rather than land when speaking about flying: planes were airships and civilian pilots who flew passengers were captains, a usage which persists to this day.

Letter excerpts:

My Beloved,

We sailed across the Channel through a fierce storm and were over the other side in about 11 minutes. …

It was so nice on the beach with you and [the children.] …

I do hope you were not cold going back in the car, or were not worried at my method of travel. It gives me a feeling of tremendous conquest over space, & I know you would love it yourself.

The Canary [his pilot, Cyril Patterson] is much alarmed by motor cars & thinks them far more dangerous than aeroplanes. …

I am very happy to be married to you my darling one, & as the years pass I feel more & more dependent on you & all you give me.

With tender love
Your own
Far from coming to “love” flying in those years, Clementine was greatly worried by Churchill’s flying. After he was involved in two crashes while attempting to earn his pilot’s license, she along with many friends persuaded him to cease taking flying lessons.

Churchill greatly regretted not getting his license. During WW II on long flights he’d sometimes go into the cockpit and with a pilot beside him would, as the British say, “have a go at it.”