To celebrate a birthday is to celebrate a life. Churchillians from around the world celebrated the birthday of Mary Soames, Winston Churchill’s daughter, at Cannes, France, on September 15, 2011. Celia Sandys hosted a gala birthday party for Mary aboard ship during a spectacular tour to the South of France. Thirty Churchillians came together aboard the luxurious Seabourn Legend, September 9-16, for an incredible tour of many of the venues that Winston Churchill visited and painted. The tour was organized and produced by Celia Sandys and began in the port of Civitavecchia near Rome. The ship sailed to the intriguing Corsican village of Bonifacio and then on to ports across the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera, Le Lavandou, Provence, Sanary-sur-Mer, Saint Raphael, Cannes and ended in spectacular Monte-Carlo, Monaco. In addition to Celia, we were joined by Allen Packwood and Minnie Churchill who gave interesting and insightful presentations along the way about Churchill, his adventures and his painting. One guest summarized the week as “one of the greatest weeks that I have ever had.”
The onboard party included tour guests from Canada, England, France and the United States of America and who were joined by the ship’s Captain Andrew Pedder to raise a glass of champagne, Pol Roger of course, in honor of Mary. One of the night’s many highlights was a special birthday cake, hand-fashioned in chocolate by the ship’s pastry chef, into a beautiful cigar caddy inside of which were individual cakes, each in the shape of a Churchill-sized cigar. A special toast for the occasion was offered by Alan Packwood, Director of The Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College in Cambridge, England.
Of all the countries in the British Empire and Commonwealth, it is likely that Winston Churchill felt the closest association with Canada. He travelled to the country nine times beginning in 1900 at age 26; his last visit was in 1954 when he was nearly eigthy. Churchill Centre Executive Director Lee Pollock recently spoke with Randy Barber, Chairman of the International Churchill Society – Canada (ICS-Canada) about Sir Winston’s connections to Canada and the activities of the Society. Randy has served as Chairman of ICS-Canada since 1992 and as a Board member from 1982 as well as being a longtime trustee of The Churchill Centre and a frequent speaker on Churchill subjects throughout North America.
A native of Toronto, Randy has held responsible roles in the Canadian gaming industry, having retired from fulltime work in 2005 as Chair of the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario and an associate of the Canadian Gaming Association. Most recently, he served the people of Canada as a federal appointee to the National Parole Board.
He is currently Vice President of Government Relations and Regulation for Ontario Entertainment Technologies and sits on several corporate and charitable boards.
Lee Pollock: Randy, many of our readers know about your involvement with ICS-Canada and The Churchill Centre but perhaps not about your personal background. Could you us a little about that and in particular how you became a Churchillian? Were there any Churchillians or British connections in your family that influenced you?
Randy Barber: I remember, in 1953 or ’54, in early elementary school, where we sang ‘God Save the Queen’ and saluted the flag each morning, also filling a rubber mold in the likeness of Sir Winston, with plaster-of-Paris, allowing it to harden and then very carefully removing the pure white four inch tall bust. It had a ‘V’ on the left lapel and I often see them today for sale in antique shops for up to $35.
My paternal grandfather was a contemporary of WSC’s and served with the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry in the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. In my research to date, I have read that the ‘DOCs’ served in a left flanking position with Lord Strathcona’s Horse (a Canadian contingent of several thousand men and horses raised and entirely funded by Strathcona for the mother country) in a couple of battles. I believe, as they likely shared bivouacs during R&R that this eventually led to my grandparents leaving Haverhill, Suffolk and immigrating to Canada in 1910.
As a boy in the 50’s, he regaled me with stories of his adventures in the British Army and I remember distinctly him telling me about the exploits of Churchill and his great escape. On to high school where the curriculum had us read ‘My Early Life’ in English class and of course, English history was still de rigueur in history class.
My father, who was a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery during the Second World War, also spoke of Churchill and particularly his wartime speeches, when all Canadians listened to the wireless.
As a lifelong ‘student of history’, I used to buy a magazine called British History Illustrated; now called British Heritage. A small ad caught my eye, placed by one Richard M. Langworth for the International Churchill Society-USA, the precursor to The Churchill Centre. I wrote; RML answered and said to contact the Canadian chapter headed by one George Temple, who lived less than ten minutes from my home. I believe that was about 1978.
The rest is history!
LP: ICS-Canada has enjoyed great success over the years. Tell us more about the Society – its history, membership, some of your recent activities and current plans – and also about some of the other Churchill societies that serve Western Canada.
Sir Winston Churchill would have enjoyed the scene at the Wine Country Polo Club in Santa Rosa, where polo teams played a charity match Saturday.
By STEVE HART
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, 8 October 2011—”My grandfather would have loved to be here, watching a sport he loved so much,” said Celia Sandys, granddaughter of the British wartime leader and statesman.
Sandys, a Churchill historian and author, presented the trophy at the Winston S. Churchill and James S. Brady Courage Cup held at the club’s Trione Field in Oakmont.
The event benefits a Bay Area horseback therapy program for children with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disorders.
This year, it partnered with The Churchill Centre, a London-based nonprofit dedicated to the statesman’s work. Churchill was an avid polo player, winning the All—India Cup with his regimental team in the late 1890s.
Churchill played with one arm strapped to his side because he’d injured his shoulder getting off a ship, Sandys said.
He continued playing until he was in his 50s.
The charity match has been held for the past 26 years at the polo fields in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It moved north this year when they weren’t available, said Melba Meakin of Horses in California, the nonprofit that sponsors the match.
Santa Rosa philanthropist Henry Trione offered the Oakmont polo fields for free, she said. Read More >
Dinner with Churchill: Policy Making at the Dinner Table, By Cita Stelzer Short Books, £20
THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD, 6 October 2011—Asked to choose their ideal dinner-party guest, many people tend to pick Winston Churchill.
He would undoubtedly make a fitting companion, for as Cita Stelzer reminds us in this amusing and unpretentious little book, he was one of modern history’s great trenchermen. “It is well to remember,” he wrote at the turn of the 20th century, “that the stomach governs the world.”
It certainly governed the great man himself. When, with Britain gripped by wartime rationing, Churchill suggested “a series of Cabinet banquets, a sort of Salute the Stomach week”, few of his colleagues could have been very surprised. Even in the depths of wartime, meals were gargantuan occasions. At a “small lunch” with the King in March 1941, for instance, Churchill put away “fish patty, tournedos with mushrooms on top and braised celery and chipped potatoes, peaches and cheese to follow”, washed down with sherry beforehand, white wine with the food and port and brandy to follow.
Dinners were invariably lavish: at Chequers, they kicked off with drinks at 8.30pm, before an hour’s dedicated munching and then a further couple of hours while Churchill lectured his male guests or made them watch a film. Finally, at about one in the morning, the Prime Minister would turn to his exhausted officials. “Now,” he would say, “down to business!”
Prisms of British Appeasement: Revisionist Reputations of John Simon, Samuel Hoare, Anthony Eden, Lord Halifax, and Alfred Duff Cooper
Terrance L. Lewis Sussex Academic Press, 2011, 241pp
Of these five major political figures from the National Governments of the 1930s, three were condemned in a famous 1940 pamphlet as major ‘Guilty Men’ — appeasers responsible for Britain’s failure to contain Hitler and Mussolini. Anthony Eden and Duff Cooper were excused since they had resigned from office in 1938.
All of them wrote memoirs to give their version of the events of the 1930s, and each has attracted at least one biographer. Their actions and evolving reputations centred around their different international perspectives and governmental experience with respect to the collective policies advocating appeasement. Each man’s career acts as a prism, reflecting different national and international perspectives (or viewpoints) of the time. As such, all five therefore deserve to be judged on their own separate relationships with Neville Chamberlain and his and their attitudes to appeasement, foreign policy, and rearmament. An important theme of the book is that the totality of their experiences, political positions and actions gives the historian a much wider perception of the policy options available to Britain in contrast to concentrating on just the issues and policies of one participant, or of Chamberlain himself.
At home in the corridors of power By Philip Ziegler
A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s Youngest Child, By Mary Soames Doubleday, 402pp, £25
THE SPECTATOR, 24 September 2011—To be the daughter of an enormously powerful man must always be an enthralling if sometimes daunting experience. To be close to that father when, almost single-handed, he is shaping the destinies of the nation, if not the world, is to be uniquely privileged. Mary Soames took no part in the decision-making that was happening above her head, but she was singularly well placed to sense what was going on and to understand the man who was riding the storm with such courage and aplomb.
She was much younger than her siblings, her father was absorbed in his Herculean task, her mother knew that her first responsibility must be to her husband. Mary Soames was therefore a solitary child, but she never felt neglected and was incapable of self-pity.
She spent a happy youth in the family home of Chartwell, broken by sojourns in Admiralty House and No. 11 Downing Street, where she distinguished herself by pouring water over the policeman on duty outside the door (a wholly uncharacteristic piece of mischief in a life marked throughout by generosity and consideration for others). She was present at the critical debate when Neville Chamberlain was hounded from office and the way cleared for Winston Churchill to take the lead. From then on she was near the heart of everything:
It was now that my love and admiration for my father became enhanced by an increasing element of hero-worship. I saw how people turned to him in confident hope; and my own daughterly affection became entwined with all the emotions I felt as a young, patriotic Englishwoman.
LONDON EVENING STANDARD, 7 October 2011—Much mutual congratulation at the Cavalry and Guards Club last night, where Heywood Hill, the Curzon Street bookshop, celebrated its 75th birthday with a party for Lady Soames and Sir Max Hastings.”Mary was with her father at the White House in 1943 and she has met everyone from Lloyd George to Roosevelt and Charlie Chaplin to TE Lawrence,” said Sir Max in praise of Lady Soames’s book about family life with her father Winston Churchill.Then Nicholas Soames MP, speaking on behalf of his mother, acclaimed Hastings for his latest book, his ninth on the Second World War. “I spent two-and-a-half very happy days reading it at the Tory conference,” he announced. So at least something was achieved in Manchester.Sarah Bradford, Sir Alistair Horne, Lord Carrington, Sir Simon Jenkins, the Duke of Devonshire and the Duke of Wellington were there. Sir Max, who is very tall, had difficulty bowing to Princess Alexandra without head-butting her. So he executed a small bend of the knees, which experts said was more like a curtsy.
Sir Winston Churchill’s memory is very much alive in Canada’s capital. In this, the 70th anniversary year of both the Karsh photographic portrait of the Prime Minister and the rousing “Some chicken! Some neck!” speech in the Canadian House of Commons, an Ottawa society has at last been formed. Called the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa, it is now open to receive members. Its inaugural meeting, under the auspices of the British High Commissioner to Canada, Dr. Andrew Pocock, will aptly be held on November 30, 2011, the 137th anniversary of Sir Winston’s birth. The guest speaker at the inaugural event will be Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre. Anyone wishing to join the Ottawa Society and/or to attend that inaugural event, should contact Ronald Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 613-298-7171.
The battle was far from over when Winston Churchill returned from visits to Fighter Command airfields in southern England and went before the House to pay his unforgettable tribute to the intrepid airmen defending their island nation. Who can forget the incredible story of “the Few”?
How few? The Battle of Britain, the air battle of 1940, began with 2,670 German aircraft—Junkers, Dornier, and Heinkel bombers; Stuka dive-bombers; and Messerschmitt fighters—ranged against only 600 Royal Air Force (RAF) Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters. Naturally, it was the bombers, all 1,015 of them, that were the real threat to the homeland and its defenders. Naturally, based in the newly captured airfields of France and Belgium, they didn’t have far to go.
After weeks of wondering, indeed even fearing, when the war would come home to them, the British citizenry had its answer on July 10. On that day the now legendary Battle of Britain began with heavy German raids on ports in southern England, presumed to be a likely invasion site. From then on, almost daily, bombers escorted by swarms of fighters struck at shipping and harbor facilities in port cities stretching from Bristol to Plymouth. The low point came on August 15, the day both southern and northern England took a beating from an estimated 940 German aircraft—with 76 German planes shot down to the RAF’s loss of 34 fighters and 21 bombers destroyed on the ground.
By this time, thanks to Fighter Command’s relentlessly fierce defense of the homeland, a new phase in Luftwaffe strategy had developed: the RAF itself became the target. Thus, the Luftwaffe went after airfields, radar facilities, and aircraft factories supporting Fighter Command in this all-out two-week effort to negate the RAF’s threat to German bombers. During this critical phase, the British lost 466 Hurricanes and Spitfires, along with 103 pilots killed and another 128 badly wounded—a fourth of the pilot pool in Fighter Command. These were terrible losses, difficult to overcome, but it is estimated the Germans lost twice as many aircraft and even more pilots and aircrews.
But on September 7 the Luftwaffe changed strategy again and began targeting the civilian population of England. London became the target of the German blitz, no holds barred. The new phase began with a daytime raid on London by 300 German planes. On September 15, 400 German bombers attacked the capital city, with 56 lost to RAF fighters and antiaircraft fire. Another change in tactics quickly followed. Now, the Germans would bomb only at night, with an average of 200 planes striking London with high explosives and incendiaries night after night—57 nights in a row during the peak period. On one of those nights, October 15, an estimated 480 German aircraft struck the capital city with 386 tons of high explosives and 70,000 incendiaries.
“The repetitive, heavy raids killed more than 43,000 British and wounded five times that number, caused tremendous property damage, and curtailed war and food production,” noted David Eggenberger’s Encyclopedia of Battles. “But the change to night attack made it clear that British fighter pilots…had broken the back of the Luftwaffe bomber offensive and unequivocally ended Nazi invasion plans. Although the air battle raged on for another two months…the issue had been settled in September.”
The Winston Churchill Society of Michigan held a well-attended dinner meeting on September 30, 2011 at the Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor. The principal speaker was Brian D. Shaw, President of the George C. Marshall Foundation based in Lexington, Virginia. Brian’s talk was titled “With Affection and Admiration – The Letters of George C. Marshall and Winston S. Churchill.” Recognizing that many books have been written about these great men and the smallest details garner at least whole chapters, Brian’s approach was to share some short stories and vignettes.
Some selected points from Brian Shaw’s talk: Born in different social backgrounds their academic performances were sub-par and did not portend great achievement in adult life. Both found a focus in military schools. Both received Nobel prizes in 1953, Churchill Literature and Marshall Peace. Marshall reached the pinnacle of his army career when he became Army Chief of Staff on the very same day as Germany invaded Poland. At that moment the US Army was ranked 17th in the world. Marshall understood with total clarity that the United States would eventually be drawn into this war of mega-aggressors, whether in Europe or Asia, and he set about to prepare the army. Marshall first met Churchill in Newfoundland, Placentia Bay, in August 1941. He was in the gallery when Sir Winston spoke to a joint session of Congress four months later on December 26 just after war between Germany and the United States had been declared. Marshall encountered Churchill’s sometimes exasperating penchant for detail when he, Marshall, received a well-argued letter about code naming military operations. Several objectionable names on a draft list had been marked through in red. Winston Churchill’s main point can be summarized: “…do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called Bunnyhug or Ballyhoo.” Marshall agreed. Another episode included some considerable tension between these two war leaders. Marshall was arguing for a total effort focused on what was to become the Normandy invasion. Churchill was arguing for what Marshall considered “side shows”, one being the Greek islands. Following Churchill’s insistence “His Majesty’s Government cannot stand idle – Muskets must flame” the argument was concluded by Marshall saying “…not one American soldier is going to die on that G..damn (Greek) beach.”
Edwina Sandys has an immense reputation as artist and feminist, and has been working for more than forty years in the arenas of sculpture, painting, collage, drawing and printing. Sandys’ art is at once, playful, witty, and profound—her artwork is also deeply poetic and constantly challenging convention. The artistic appeal of Edwina Sandys lies in her diverse subject matter. From the sacred to the secular, to the most essential questions about politics and society, she has tackled grand ideas with panache, combining the lighthearted and the profound, at once whimsical and mind provoking. Hands are a reoccurring motif in her work, as is a constant return to the diametrical opposites of substance and void. In Adam and Eve, for example, hands are cut out to cover “shameful” body parts, yet the hands don’t really exist; instead they are void spaces on silhouettes. Sandys’ artistic palette is also refreshingly full of vibrant hues such as cherry-red and apple-green. Her clearly recognizable style uses positive and negative images to powerful effect. Seminal works include The Marriage Bed and Christa, the first representation of Christ as a woman created in 1975 as a bronze statue. After being on display in numerous churches, Christa was installed at Easter 1984 in New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Sandys is also the granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill. The book is rounded out with wonderful photographs of her life that illustrate her famous ancestry. This book is the first and only collection of her visionary and artistic endeavors spanning over four decades.
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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.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.