Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Churchill Series - May 13, 2009

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

Today we continue the “Walk in Churchill’s Steps” series we began Monday.

We’re now leaving St. James Park and heading toward Downing Street and Whitehall. It’s about a five to ten minute walk. If your not sure of the best route any Londoner will tell you.

When you arrive you're standing on the Whitehall sidewalk looking down the single block that’s Downing Street. In Churchill’s lifetime you could walk down Downing Street and have your picture taken standing in front of No. 10 but the street is now gated for securitythe street wasn’t gated.

He knew knw Downing Street first as a small boy. His father, Lord Randolph, became Chancellor of the Exchequer when Churchill was about 10. The Chancellor's office and home are at 11 Downing Street.

Churchill was away at school most of the time his father was Chancellor, but he did stay at 11 Downing Street during holidays.

Churchill again lived at No. 11 when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer from Nov. 1924 to June 1929. In a letter to his mother he said No. 11 was his second favorite London address.

From the gate at Downing Street you can see the Parliament building some few hundred yards up Whitehall. The official name for what are really a group of structures is the Palace of Westminster.

Walk up Whitehall toward Parliament, a walk Churchill made on countless days.

May 13, 1940, was one of those days. On that day the 10 year old school boy who use to run up Whitehall to play in Parliament Square was on the 65 year old Commons Member for Epping about to address the House for the first time as Prime Minister.

He told the House he had “nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

But Churchill offered much more. He strengthened the Members' and the nation's courage, defiance, hope and purpose, ending his first speech as PM with:

"But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, 'come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.'"
Tomorrow we’ll end our walk in front of Churchill's statue in Parliament Square
The text of Churchill's May 13, 1940 speech to the Commons can be found here courtesy of The Churchill Centre.