Shortly after the Coronation, Churchill suffered a more serious stroke – carefully concealed from the media and the public – which affected his left side and impaired his speech for at least two months and delayed his summit meeting in Bermuda. Mary’s husband, Christopher Soames took over much of the day-to-day management in Downing Street. Colleagues encouraged him to retire – and recuperate. But with Eden, his obvious successor, also unwell, Churchill had a good excuse to resist calls for his resignation and he recovered sufficiently to attend the Conservative Party conference in Margate in October 1953.
In a masterly display of resilience and strength, he gave an impressive speech on 10 October 1953 to his party, having regained almost entirely his former fluency and passion (few in the audience noticed any change).
But it became apparent in time that Churchill’s performances in the Commons were becoming laboured and his speeches rambling. He had to rely on his hearing aid more and more for meetings. His powers were clearly failing.
He had always said he believed in ‘staying in the pub until closing time’ and he hung on far longer than many of his colleagues had expected – or felt was wise. He wasn’t sure his successor was up to the job and didn’t want to leave until the the barman finally called ‘time’. Above all, he was passionate about trying to combat the increasing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He felt he still had ‘an influence’ and wanted to exert it towards earning a ‘sure and lasting peace’.
See Christopher Soames’ speech, ‘Tired and Weary, He Battled on’, given to the Sir Winston S. Churchill Society of Edmonton, Alberta, in 1979, here.
In November 1954, it was Churchill’s eightieth birthday. Churchill attended the celebrations of his eightieth birthday at Westminster Hall in good form.
See the news as it was reported ‘on this day’ by the BBC here.
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