Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Churchill Series - Mar. 2, 2009

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

During the winter of 1931/32 Churchill made an extensive lecture tour in the United States.

It was on that tour that he was struck and almost killed by a taxi while crossing New York’s Fifth Avenue.

During a lengthy convalescence, part of which was spent in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Churchill and his bodyguard, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, realized they'd not registered and received permits for the pistols they carried (At the time Churchill was considered a prime assassination target of both Irish and Indian extremists).

Churchill asked Thompson to take the pistols down to NYC Police headquarters and set matters right.

When Thompson returned to the Waldorf, he told Churchill what had happened.

The police had been very polite but they’d made it clear people were not supposed to carry guns in the city.

Thompson protested that extremist groups, some active in the Untied States, had repeatedly threatened to kill Churchill. Not only that, Thompson had read in the morning’s paper of five murders just the previous day.

The police said they understood his position, but there were still the gun law to consider.

Thompson continued pressing. Soon he was told the Police Chief himself would speak to him.

The Chief had been briefed on the problem. “We can’t give you official permission,” he told Thompson. Then he added: “But if you have to use weapons just let us know and we will square it for you.”

Churchill took it all in before telling Thompson the Americans were “an amazing people.”
Tom Hickman, Churchill's Bodyguard. (pgs. 70-71)