Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Churchill Series - Nov. 20, 2008

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

Readers Note: This post from Dec. 2005 remains one of my Series favorites.


It's 1897. Twenty-three year old Lieutenant Winston S. Churchill is serving in Queen Victoria's army in India. He's been under fire often during fighting in what was then British-ruled India's Northwest frontier.

Now, off the battle lines and billeted in Bangalore, he has time to correspond with his mother.

He urges her to do all she can to improve his chances of winning a seat in Parliament at the first opportunity. Later he told a friend, "She left no stone unturned, she left no cutlet uncooked."

Lady Churchill was concerned for her son's safety. With a flippant insensitivity excused by his youth, he told her he would not die in combat because "I do not believe the Gods would create so potent a being as myself for so prosaic an ending."

In a subsequent letter, we see a more thoughtful Churchill. His biographer Martin Gilbert records:

Two of Churchill's friends had also been war correspondents on the Indian frontier. One, Lord Fincastle, had won the Victoria Cross. The other, Lieutenant R. T. Greaves, had been killed in action, "A very little luck," Churchill told his mother, "might have carried me to the highest of all prizes or have ended the game."
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life. (pgs. 80-83)