Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Churchill Series - Jan. 7, 2009

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

Churchill loved baths. Once, he even arranged for a train to stop in the middle of a desert while he got off and took one in a tub set beside the tracks.

Here's how that happened.

In March, 1921, Churchill, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, traveled to the Middle East.

After days of meetings in Cairo, he and his party boarded an overnight train for Jerusalem.

Early the next morning, with the train moving through the desert, Churchill summoned his bodyguard, Inspector Thompson. He wanted Thompson to arrange for his bath.

Thompson, who would become Churchill's longest serving bodyguard, had only recently been assigned to him. He wanted to oblige Churchill but didn't see how he could. He said "everybody on this hot, grubby journey wants a bath (but there is) no bathroom on the train (and) no bath for miles."

Churchill insisted there was at least a tub on board somewhere; and asked Thompson to locate it, which he finally did in the baggage car.

"(It was) a tall-backed, old-fashioned, tin-plate affair," Thompson later said. "The kind used in front of bedroom fireplaces before a bathroom became standard home equipment."

When Thompson told Churchill of his find, he added that there was no hot water on board. So how could Churchill have his bath?

"You're slipping, Thompson," Churchill said. "When you first came to me I thought you were a man of intelligence. Now I doubt it."

With that, he told Thompson to have the engineer stop the train. They would draw hot water from the engine.

Now, let's give the final words to Thompson:

Winston got out of bed. He put on a brightly coloured dressing gown, seized a towel, and led the way along the tracks to the front, where the steaming bathtub lay on the dusty desert.

He smiled up at the engine crew, stripped naked, and fitted himself into the bath.

As Archimedes predicted, most of the water spilled over and was swallowed up by the parched earth.

But (Churchill) got a bath of sorts, dried himself, waved to the crew and sauntered, pink and clean, back to his compartment.
Tom Hickman,
Churchill's Bodyguard. (pgs. 15-16)