This January 10th online article, “The Winners Code,” is remindful of Churchill’s remark, “I should think it was hardly possible to state the opposite of the truth with more precision.”
No member of his family ever saw Churchill the worse for drink, although after 40 years of writing about him I did find one military staffer who helped Churchill and Eden on a wobbly walk back to the British Embassy in Teheran, after a late-night of mutual toasts with the Russians. Churchill himself liked to exaggerate his alcoholic capacity, giving rise to nonsensical myths.
The notion of him stumbling home drunk and wet, which I notice carries no attribution, is the invention of a fevered mind. It is a bowdlerization of an encounter between Churchill and a fellow Member of Parliament, related to me by the late Ronald Golding, the bodyguard present on that occasion:
Bessie Braddock MP: “Winston, you are drunk, and what’s more you are disgustingly drunk.”
WSC: “Bessie, my dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow
I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”
This world famous encounter occurred late one night in 1946, as Churchill was leaving the House of Commons. Lady Soames, who said her father was always gallant to ladies, doubted the story, but Mr. Golding explained that WSC was not drunk, just tired and unsteady, which perhaps caused him to fire the full arsenal.
Only later did I learn that he was probably relying on his photographic memory for this riposte: In the 1934 movie It’s a Gift, W. C. Fields’s character, when told he is drunk, responds, “Yeah, and you’re crazy. But I’ll be sober tomorrow and you’ll be crazy the rest of your life.” So the Bessie Braddock encounter was really Churchill editing W. C. Fields.
Richard M. Langworth, Editor
The Winners Code
By George Chingarnde
Transformation – from what to what?
MMEGIONLINE.COM, 11 January 2011 – Winston Churchill was the British Prime Minister during World War II. By all accounts, he was a remarkable man. However, he was a heavy drinker and his demeanor under the influence of alcohol was not always honorable. A story is told of how one evening Churchill stumbled into his office hopelessly inebriated with his trousers wet, his shirt half tucked in and his hair disheveled. His secretary noticed his condition and moved quickly to avert embarrassment. She went to him and pulled him aside and gave him a sharp rebuke. “Mr Prime Minister, you are drunk. I cannot allow you to go in there and meet the guests. It will diminish your standing in their eyes, and shame us all. A man of your status ought not to behave like this. You must get your act together, Mr Prime Minister, and deal with your drink problem,” she chastised him.
The secretary was unprepared for what happened next. Churchill stumbled, and fell so hard that it attracted the attention of the other people in the room. She helped him back to his feet, and he stumbled towards the door, got hold of the door handle and looked back at her and with everyone hearing he delivered his retort. “You are right, my secretary. I am very drunk indeed. However, you must know this. I can go home and sleep, and tomorrow I will be sober. I can transform myself from a drunkard to a sober man. There is hope for me. As for you, my secretary, you are an ugly woman. Tonight you are ugly, and tomorrow you will still be very ugly and when you get old you will even be worse ugly. You see, there is hope for me and my alcoholism, but there is no hope for you and your ugliness,” Churchill stammered in a disproportionately high voice before falling again.