Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Churchill Series - Mar. 27, 2009

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

Some years ago at a Churchill Society dinner, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten’s daughter spoke about her father’s relationship with Churchill.

Lord Mountbatten, Dickie to his friends, had known Churchill since boyhood. His father had been First Sea Lord for a time when Churchill served from 1911 to 1915 as Lord of the Admiralty.

During his long life, Lord Mountbatten served the government in a number of important capacities. For much of WW II he was allied commander for the China-Burma-India Theatre. He later served as Great Britain’s last Viceroy to India.

Mountbatten and Churchill developed a lifelong friendship. There was a break when Churchill was angered by Mountbatten’s support for Indian independence but the rift healed over time

In her speech Countess Mountbatten recalled two incidents involving Mountbatten and Churchill I think you'll find amusing.

The first occurred before WW I when Mountbatten was a cadet at Osborne, a naval preparatory school. The second occurred in later years by which time Mountbatten was onto what Churchill’s Private Secretaries called “his tricks.”

[My father] was at school a few years later at Osborne and Mr. Churchill came down as First Lord to visit. He went round the cadets and he very unwisely asked them whether they were satisfied with their evening meal which they happened to be eating, and my father, who was never at a loss for words, said, "Well not really Sir, we only have two sardines, and we would very much like to have three."

So Mr. Churchill called up to whomever was going around with him and said, "Admiral, see to it that these young gentlemen are given three sardines for their suppers!" The Admiral said, "Yes, Sir." However, they waited a day or two, a week or two and nothing happened. […]

At the other end of Churchill's long life, my father was sent for to report on an important matter about which there'd been some little difference of opinion. Mr. Churchill gave his views at length and then sitting back in his chair, removed his hearing aid (he had become a bit deaf) and said, 'Now Dickie, tell me your views on that."

My father was not easily beaten, as you would know. He leaned forward, handing him back the hearing aid, said firmly, "Certainly Winston, provided you can hear me!"
You can read all of Countess Mountbatten’s speech here.