(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
Churchill’s bodyguard during WW II, Scotland Yard’s detective-inspector Walter Thompson, tells us about a night during The Blitz when Our Man keep the letter of his promise but certainly not its substance.
I think you’ll know where the story’s heading before we get to its end. But I found it amusing anyway and hope you do as well.
As Thompson tells it in his Beside the Bulldog: The Intimate Memoirs of Churchill’s Bodyguard (Appolo republication, 2003):
[During raids Winston] went below . . . with the greatest reluctance and much preferred to continue working through the air raids at ground level. This worried Mrs. Churchill and members of the Cabinet.I think Thompson knew what the game was from the start, don't you?
One evening Mrs. Churchill, before she left him, extracted a promise that he would go below if a raid took place. She informed me that she hoped I would unsure that he did so.
As soon as news that a raid was pending arrived, I informed the Prime Minister. He gathered up his papers and proceeded to the basement in an exemplary manner. I was mystified by this unusual docility and what apprehensive when I noticed the mysterious smile on his face.
He got into bed, and as I left the room, I made to turn out the light.
“Leave it on, Thompson,” said the Old Man.
I sat in my room and within a few minutes the bell rang.
When I went to the Prime Minister’s room, I found him out of bed in his dressing gown, with a stack of papers under his arm. I looked at him in surprise, and a mischievous grin spread all over his face.
“Well, Thompson,” said he. “I have kept my word. I came downstairs to go to bed. Now I am going upstairs to work.” (pgs. 90-91)
Until his very last years, Churchill’s sense of humor never deserted him; and there was always something of the pranksterish little boy within him.
They’re two of the things we love about him.