Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Churchill Series - May 19, 2009

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

As we move toward the end of the series this Thursday, here are parts or all of previous posts revealing Churchill's robust sense of humor which included his ability to laugh at himself.

From the introduction to Martin Gilbert's Churchill and America:

Churchill was proud of his American ancestry. During a discussion at the Truman White House in 1952, to standardize the type of rifle to be used by the two countries' armies, the following exchange took place between Churchill and the senior British officer present:

Field Marshall Slim: "Well, I suppose we could experiment with a bastard rifle, party American, partly British."

Churchill: "Kindly moderate your language, Field Marshall. It may be recalled that I am myself partly British, partly American."
Here are two more from Churchill that should have you smiling.

Once during his last years in the Commons and not for the first time, he'd dozed off during a wordy Member's long, rambling speech.

Afterwards, in the Commons Smoking Room, the obviously irritated Member approached Churchill.

“Must you always fall asleep when I am speaking?”

“No, it’s entirely voluntary.”

That one’s off the top of my head.

This next one is found in Stephen Hayward’s Churchill on Leadership (Forum, 1997). As Hayward tells it:
When the Labour Party’s 1950 housing policy chose the term “accommodation unit” to denote houses and apartments, Churchill, then Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, had a field day: “I don’t know how we are going to sing our old song ‘Home Sweet Home.’

‘Accommodation Unit, Sweet Accommodation Unit, there’s no place like our Accommodation Unit.’

I hope I live long enough to see British democracy spit all this rubbish from their lips.” (p. 101)
The Labour government soon abandoned the use of "Accommodation Unit."

Did you know Churchill disliked whistling? His aides did and made sure not to whistle when he was around.

But there was a London newsboy who didn’t know about Churchill’s dislike. What’s more, when he learned of it from Churchill himself, the boy didn’t care.

The incident happened one day as Churchill and his bodyguard, Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, were making the short walk from Parliament to 10 Downing Street. As Thompson tells it:

Approaching …(us) was a boy of about thirteen years of age, hands in pockets, newspapers under his arms, whistling loudly and cheerfully.

When the boy drew near, Winston hunched his shoulders, walked towards the boy and said in a stern voice: “Stop that whistling.”

The boy looked up at the Prime Minister with complete unconcern and answered: “Why should I?”

“Because I don’t like it and it’s a horrible noise,” growled Winston.

The boy moved onwards a few steps, then turned round and called out: “Well, you can shut your ears, can’t you?”

With that he walked on.

Winston was completely taken aback , and for a moment he looked furious. Then, as he crossed the road, he began to smile and quietly repeated to himself the words “You can shut your ears, can’t you?” and followed it up with a hearty chuckle.

I think Churchill chuckled because in his mind’s eye he saw something of himself in the boy.

The incident is recounted in Tom Hickman's Churchill's Bodyguard. (pgs, 116-117)