Friday, October 31, 2008

The Churchill Series - Oct. 31, 2008

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

Readers Note: Devils were once said to roam on Halloween, so it seems appropriate to repost today an "oldie" from 2006. Churchill himself tells a tale with a surprising outcome some claimed could only be an instance of satanic influence.

On the night of October 14, 1940 Churchill was dining at 10 Downing Street when a bombing raid began.

A part of the Treasury Building, not fifty yards from Number 10, suffered a direct hit before Churchill and aides could get to a shelter.

Churchill didm't remain long in the shelter. He soon went to the roof of the building that housed the shelter to witness the raid. He later wrote:

The night was clear and there was a wide view of London. It seemed the greater part of Pall Mall was in flames. [There were] fierce St. James Street and Piccadilly. Farther back over the river in the opposite direction there were many conflagrations. But Pall Mall was the vivid flame-picture
Pall Mall was then as now the location of many of London's private clubs, including the prestigious The Carleton Club, whose membership has traditionally included the leaders and other important members of Churchill's Conservative Party. To this day it refers to itself as "The Conservative Club."

Churchill was given an eye-witness account of the club's destruction by a Member of Parliament:
He was in the club with about two hundred and fifty members and staff. ...

The whole of the facade and the massive coping on the Pall Mall side (fell into) the street obliterating his motor-car. ...

The smoking-room had been full of members, and the whole ceiling had come down upon them. ...

However, by what seemed a miracle, they had all crawled out of the dust, smoke, and rubble, and thought many were injured not a single life was lost.
While to Churchill the survival of his Conservative Party colleagues "seemed a miracle," Laborites had another explanation, which Churchill duly recorded:
(In) Cabinet, our Labour colleagues facetiously remarked, "The Devil looks after his own."
Winston S. Churchill,
Their Finest Hour. (pgs. 346-348)