The official society studying the life and work of Winston Churchill has called for greater recognition of the former war leader’s links to Scotland.
Churchill’s birthday falls on St. Andrew’s Day (November 30, 1874). No greater or emblematic, and perhaps ironic, connection exists than Churchill’s close friendship with a founder and leader of the Scottish National Party, Andrew Dewar Gibb.
Churchill commanded the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1916. He was a Lieutenant Colonel. Serving as his adjutant was Major Andrew Dewar Gibb, then a captain, who went on to become a founder and leader of the SNP (1936-40).
Dewar Gibb released a book in 1924 about his time with Churchill in the trenches. He published the book anonymously as Captain X. The book was re-released in 2016 (With Winston Churchill at the Front, Winston in the Trenches 1916), this time with a foreword by Randolph Churchill, Winston’s great-grandson and an introduction by Dewar Gibb’s son, Nigel (now 88 years old, who resides in Glasgow).
To mark the centenary, Randolph and his family returned with Nigel to Ploegsteert near Ypres, Belgium in 2016 to visit where his father and Winston served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the trenches of Flanders. The people of Ploegsteert gave them a reception, and also celebrated Nigel’s revised and enhanced edition of his father’s book.
Churchill’s connections to Scotland are plentiful and have recently been documented by The International Churchill Society (ICS), in their journal Finest Hour with a foreword by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Mr Randolph Churchill, Winston’s great-grandson, said:
“The Churchill family is delighted that efforts are being made to bring together my great-grandfather’s relationship with Scotland. He not only had great admiration for Scotland but considered many Scots among his friends.
“Churchill had immense respect for the men under his command. This story is one of the many about Scotland that has fallen out of public knowledge.
“Whatever the political debates of today, they have no bearing on an objective view of history. My great-grandfather had a plethora of connections to Scotland, her politicians, her institutions, and her people. He was quite correct when he said he owed Scotland his wife, his constituency and his regiment.”
Mr Nigel Dewar Gibb said of his father and Winston Churchill:
“I very much welcome efforts to remember this important chapter in the lives of both Winston Churchill and my father, Andrew Dewar Gibb.
“My father was very proud to have served with Churchill as his adjutant and prouder still of his country. My family and I are delighted at the efforts to bring this chapter to the fore of people’s minds.
“I hope it will serve as a starting gun for more discussion about Churchill’s connections to Scotland, as well as a happy remembrance of my father’s lifetime commitment to Scottish public life. Father went on to become Regius Professor of Law at Glasgow University from 1934 till 1958.”
Mr Andrew Dewar Gibb, MBE QC (1888-1974) said in his book:
“I am firmly convinced that no more popular officer ever commanded troops. As a soldier he [Churchill] was hard-working, persevering, and thorough. He is a man who is apparently always to have enemies.
“He made none in his old regiment, but left behind him there, men who will always be his loyal partisans and admirers, and who are proud of having served in the Great War under the leadership of one who is beyond question a great man.”
– Ends –
Notes to editors
The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill’s death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill. It is among the first to globally collate and consider Churchill’s numerous but not always well-known connections to Scotland. Writer Alastair Stewart, Mr Neil McLennan of the University of Aberdeen and Professor David Freeman of California State University are in active discussions to produce the first dedicated book to Churchill and Scotland.
Churchill in the trenches
Picture credit: Churchill Archives Centre, WCHL 4/18 /
Picture caption: (seated in the middle of the centre row, left to right) Churchill as Lieutenant-Colonel (in Glengarry bonnet), commanding officer; Andrew Dewar Gibb (also in Glengarry bonnet), adjutant.
Picture Caption: included in folder
View ‘Churchill and Scotland’ edition of Finest Hour here: http://winstonchurchill.org/finest-hour-scotland/
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Background and Scottish links
The ICS is also launching an appeal for more information about Churchill’s many associations with Scotland to enable further study about how the famous wartime Prime Minister and the Scottish people affected one another.
Churchill said that the three most important things he received from Scotland were his wife, his constituency, and his regiment. During the First World War, he commanded the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front in 1916.
Churchill was the Liberal MP for Dundee for fourteen years. First elected in 1908, he was re-elected to the seat four times before finally losing (to a Prohibitionist candidate!) in 1922. The same year Churchill was elected to Dundee, he married Clementine Hozier, a granddaughter of the tenth Earl of Airlie.
In 1912, Churchill was among the first senior British politicians to call for Scottish home rule and UK federalism. He received his first government appointment from Scottish prime minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1906. He was close friends with the former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, in his time a highly regarded Scottish politician.
Despite Churchill having had many other personal and professional connections with Scotland, there is little in the country today to mark his presence. Two plaques to his time in Dundee were erected in 2008, and there is an outstanding portrait of him by Scotland’s Sir James Guthrie in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. Otherwise, there are merely a handful of busts around the country including a miniature sculpture in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum.
Gordon Brown, former British prime minister (2007–10) said:
“So much has been written about every aspect of Winston Churchill’s life that it is surprising that one important area—his relationship with Scotland—has commanded so little attention.
“That is why this set of essays in Finest Hour must start to rectify this and rescues Churchill’s Scottish connections from the condescension of posterity.”
David Freeman, the editor of Finest Hour, said:
“The connections are innumerable and substantial, and we’re thrilled to be among the first to bring these together formally. Finest Hour, our subscription magazine, is free to view this month to kick start this conversation. If you’re sitting with old photos or other memorabilia from one of his many trips to Scotland, please get in touch.”
Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives, said:
“Churchill is often thought of and referred to as a quintessentially English figure, but this overlooks a multitude of Scottish connections. I am certain that there is new material awaiting discovery in attics and basements that will shed more light on his reception, connections, and activities in Scotland.
“We’re delighted to start that process with our dedicated team of academics and enthusiasts, and this is a conversation that we’re delighted to begin with Scotland and, indeed, the world.”