Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Churchill Series - Oct. 29, 2008

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

On June 22, 1922 Sir Henry Wilson, a former Chief of the Imperial General Staff and at the time an MP active in efforts to resolve “the Irish Question,” was assassinated by IRA terrorists outside his London home.

Churchill was then Secretary of State for the Colonies and active in trying to resolve Anglo-Irish differences. Naturally, he was at great risk himself of assassination. His principal bodyguard for many years, Detective Inspective Walter Thompson, tells us:

For some weeks Churchill lived like a prisoner in a fortress. I was the senior officer responsible for his safety, and it was a nerve-wracking time. Plain clothes men patrolled Sussex Square day and night and when we went out, it was in an armoured Rolls-Royce. […]

I was alarmed one day when Mr. Churchill said to me that he proposed to walk across from the Colonial Office to the House of Commons. I pointed out to him the dangers of this procedure, particularly as there was no other competent person available to go with him at the time.

My remarks had no effect at all. Mr. Churchill just shot out his chin in that obstinate way of his, and replied, “Righto, you look after my back, Thompson. I’ll attend to the front.”

We reached the House without mishap, but even now I can feel my hand gripping my revolver all the way.
Churchill’s life was often threatened yet he rarely let the threat of assassination interfere with his activities. On those few occasions when he did alter his activities, he did so only in response to pleadings from Clementine or security officers who told him what he was proposing to do would put their own lives in grave danger.

BTW – Merriam-Webster Online defines “righto” as “used to express cheerful concurrence, assent, or understanding.”