Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Churchill Series - Apr 8, 2009

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

In August 1929 Churchill, with his son, Randolph, his brother, Jack, and Jack’s son, Johnny, arrived in Quebec City to begin an almost three month tour of Canada and the United States.

As a well-known author and Member of Parliament who’d recently served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill was in great demand as a speaker. Also, receptions were arranged so people could meet him.

Churchill had brought with him research material for his planned biography of his ancestor, the first Duke of Marlborough. He would also write for magazines and newspapers a number of articles describing the trip.

And with all of that, the trip had been planned as a travel holiday.

Churchill wrote Clementine from Quebec:

We stayed at the Chateau Frontenac, a tremendous hotel on the most modern lines. Saturday we saw all the sights, the Citadel, Wolfe’s Cove and the Plains of Abraham, where the battle which decided the fate of Canada was fought. …

Late in the afternoon …we took an open motor car and went off twenty miles into the blue. I wanted to see the country at close quarters and nibble the grass and champ the branches. We saw hills and forests scarcely trodden by the foot of man, every kind of tree growing in primeval confusion and loveliest [streams] splashing down to the rivers. …

Our first morning there arrived [a man from] the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, sent specially on a twenty-four hours journey by Mr. [Charles] Schwab [Chairman, Bethlehem Steel Company] with the most cordial message . Mr. Schwab places his ‘railway’ car at our disposal during the whole of our tour in the United States!

This solves all problems. We timidly suggested paying the haulage, but this was brushed aside with pained looks. It will certainly be an enormous convenience and comfort. …
Churchill had gotten to know Schwab during WWI when Schwab sought construction contracts from the Admiralty of which Churchill was then First Lord. At the time it took British shipbuilders 14 months to build a submarine; Schwab said BSC’s shipbuilding division could build them in 6 months. He convinced Churchill, who approved a contract with BSC which built the subs in 6 months as Schwab had promised.

In August 1943, almost fourteen years to the day of his first visit, Churchill returned to Quebec, this time as Prime Minister, for a conference with President Roosevelt and other allied leaders. As he had the first time, he stayed at the Chateau Frontenac as did many members of the British and American delegations.

Below are links to the Frontenac, and the tourist sites of the City of Quebec and the Province of Quebec.

If you haven’t visited Quebec, I hope you do. The city is set above the St. Lawrence with the views stretching for miles on a clear day. It’s very easy to get about; just watch those cobblestones in “The Old City.”

The surrounding countryside is magnificent. Within an hours drive of the city you find yourself, just like Churchill, in a primeval, Alpine-like countryside of forests, glens and snow-capped mountains.

Visiting Quebec allows you to experience much of what is wonderful about Europe. Only for Americans, Quebec is more easily reached and less expensive. As of Apr. 8, 2009 a U. S. dollar buys a little more than $1.20 Canadian. You can check the most current exchange rate here.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Western Canada. Churchill will meet a bear, visit Banff and Lake Louise, paint, and end the Canadian portion of the trip of the trip at a luncheon on Victoria Island. All is well until Churchill meets a cleric with “Socialist leanings.”
Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Edited by their daughter, Mary Soames. (pgs. 336-338)