Monday, April 27, 2009

The Churchill Series - Apr. 27, 2009

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

Last Friday I said I'd post today an illustration of Churchill's loyalty with a story about his care for a person who wasn't "a friend," but whose service to Churchill placed him in a special category that included friends and to whom in all cases he was intensely loyal.

The person is Scotland Yard's Walter Thompson, for many years Churchill principal bodyguard.

In the early 30s Churchill learned that Thompson, who first became his bodyguard about 10 years before, had never been promoted by the Yard.

Wasn't that unusual, Churchill asked Thompson? What explained that?

Thompson feigned ignorance.

But Churchill wasn't to be put off. He pursued his questions with the Yard. He learned that Thompson had sat for promotion exams and done exceedingly well. But he lacked the range of experience an officer was expected to have for promotion. Too much of his service had been spent protecting Churchill.

This was all news to Churchill, although Thompson was well aware of why he hadn't been promoted. But as Thompson explained to his wife, Churchill was a great man who might some day be called upon to save the country. It was a privilege and duty to guard him.

For his part, once Churchill learned why Thompson had been denied promotion, he began a two-year campaign to correct matters. It’s difficult to get a large organization to change or override policy, especially a policy that has some sense to it.

But Churchill didn't want Thompson and his family to suffer any more on his account than they were doing already because of Thompson's unusual hours, frequent long trips away from home, and always dangerous work.

Churchill wrote letters, requested and was granted interviews with the Yard's top executives, and had an occasional "word" with people in the Home Office to which Scotland Yard reports. All of this was unknown to Thompson.

How did it all come out?

At the end of two years, Thompson became Detective-Sergeant and eventually he became Detective-Inspector.

Thompson retired from the Yard in the late 30s and opened a grocery business. But about the time Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, he received a call from Churchill.

Thompson rejoined the Yard, and from then until the end of the war he resumed guarding the man whose destiny he foresaw and whose life he felt he was privileged to protect.
The material in this post is drawn from Tom Hickman's
Churchill's Bodyguard.


Anonymous said...

The posting today exemplifies why Churchill was such a great man. He understood that essence of the golden rule - to treat others as you yourself would wish to be treated. Reading today's account reminds me again why my father pulled my siblings and I out of school to watch Churchill's funeral on television - his comment at the time was that it was important that we witness the passing of the "last great man".

Anonymous said...

"Last great man..."

cks has said all that needs saying about one of my heroes.

Though some people may have disagreed with Sir Winston, I can't believe anyone didn't respect him. He was the very essence of what made England great. A nation or a leader who strives only to be loved is certain to be disrespected; our new president ignores this at his (and our) peril
Tarheel Hawkeye