Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Churchill Series – Aug.26, 2008

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

From National Review publisher William Rusher’s Sept. 25, 1994 remarks at the Proceedings of the International Churchill Societies in Banff, Alberta - - -

… [In] December 1944, … Churchill arrived [in Greece by ship] to try to set up a democratic government. The Communists were trying very hard to take over, but Churchill hoped to set up a democracy with backing and prestige that the Western powers could support. The man the British thought might lead it, uniting all the disparate fighting elements was Archbishop Damaskinos. …

Damaskinos, the Greek Orthodox prelate, was duly named premier and Churchill, of course, met him during that visit to Greece. Gerald Pawle, in his book The War and Colonel Warden, recounts an episode which occurred right before their meeting in December 1944.

It is a tradition in the Royal Navy that on Christmas Eve members of the crew dress up and go around the deck japing and joking, and occasionally, at random, tossing a colleague into the sea. They wear very strange costumes.

On this occasion one of them, it is said, was dressed up as a hula dancer, with a grass skirt and brassiere with red and green lights that blinked on and off. Others were similarly attired.

They had been very carefully isolated from the roped-off VIP area around the Captain’s quarters, but nonetheless they wandered a little closer than they were supposed to be.

Just then the official party including the Archbishop arrived.

Now Damaskinos stood well over six feet, and of course he was wearing a mitre that reached a good foot or more above that. He had a long, flowing black cloak and had a huge, bushy grey beard.

The sailors looked at him and beheld a fellow celebrant! Massing happily, they advanced on the Archbishop with clear intention of tossing him into the sea.

From this objective they were deterred only with difficulty. The Archbishop went on to Mr. Churchill’s cabin, and when it was explained to him who these people were and what the tradition was, it is said that he looked as if he had fallen among a group of lunatics. …

Do any of you know how Churchill reacted to the episode afterwards?

My guess is he was amused and enjoyed retelling it.