Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Churchill Series - Oct. 28, 2008

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

Readers Note: With polls showing the press is held in very low esteem by Americans, I thought you might find this Series "oldie" timely and amusing.


In the fall of 1929 Churchill sailed for America to begin a speaking tour. He had just served five years as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Threats on his life had been made by Indian extremists. Therefore, the British government arranged for Churchill to be accompanied by a Scotland Yard bodyguard, even though he was no longer in office.

To Churchill’s delight the man chosen to guard him was Detective-Inspector Walter Thompson, who'd been his bodyguard when he was in office.

In those days, when a liner was due to arrive in New York, the press would charter a tug and go down the harbor to meet the ship; then go on board to interview celebrities and statesmen before the ship docked.

Thompson tells us what happened when the New York press came aboard Churchill’s liner and demanded to see our hero:

When we arrived in New York, I had my first experience of the American press. The ship had not docked but at dawn one morning my cabin was besieged by a crowd of men and women making a most fearful row. I thought that the Indian terrorists must be at hand!

They were shouting for Mr. Churchill. I stepped out and asked them who they were and what they wanted.

“Newspapermen,” they replied, as though that explained everything. “We must see Churchill.”

I replied that I was astonished at their behaviour, and told them bluntly that I had no intention at all of letting them interview the British statesman at this ridiculous hour.

This led to further uproar
Who doubts it did?

Eventually everything worked out. The press went to a lounge where a short while later Churchill joined the reporters for an interview. Thompson added:
Those whom I met that day were by no means the worst representatives of the American press against whom I have protected Mr. Churchill.
Thompson’s remarks put me in mind of something. Churchill no doubt had his opinions about how the American press compared with the British press. But I can’t bring to mind anytime he ever expressed them. I’m sure he did. Can anyone shed light on this matter?

Thompson, Walter - Beside the Bulldog: The Intimate Memoirs of Churchill’s Bodyguard Ex- Detective Inspector Walter Thompson. (p. 71)