Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Churchill Series - Jan. 27, 2009

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

Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, Churchill’s principal bodyguard during WW II, recalled many times Churchill and he narrowly avoided being killed.

One such time occured one night during the Blitz when Churchill was at 10 Downing Street as the air raid warning sounded. Since structural and ground conditions prevented the construction of a satisfactory shelter at Downing Street, Churchill would be going to a reinforced shelter a few blocks away.

The shelter had been constructed to provide offices and quarters for Churchill and other government officials who'd have to carry on with duties during the raids. It was in the basement of the Treasury Annexe.

A car was always available to take Churchill to the shelter. But that night, as usual, Churchill insisted on walking despite Thompson’s urging they use the car.

As Thompson describes it they had just completed their walk and entered the Annexe when they heard a tremendous explosion outside; and Churchill went out to have a look.

The pavement where we had been walking twenty seconds earlier was now a crater. (Thompson later learned a thousand pound bomb had hit. - JinC)

As we went to the edge, the water main burst and we were drenched. I hoped this would teach him a lesson, but it did not. Hardly a month went by when we could not have been wiped of the earth.
The Annexe is now called The Cabinet War Rooms. It is much as it was when Churchill and others used it. You can learn more at Cabinet War Rooms. The Web site contains useful information for those planning a visit. A small Churchill museum has now been added to the part of the shelter open to the public.

If you haven't visited already, I hope you do someday.
Tom Hickman,
Churchill's Bodyguard: The Authorised Biography of Walter H. Thompson. (pgs. 101-119)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this posting - I am hoping to visit this summer if chosen for an NEH seminar.