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Churchill Quoted on Italian Cruise Ships (False!)

It’s all over the Web. And entirely bogus.

By Richard Langworth, Editor Finst Hour

After his retire­ment, goes the story, Churchill was cruis­ing the Mediter­ranean on an Ital­ian liner and an Ital­ian jour­nal­ist asked why a for­mer British Prime Min­is­ter chose an Ital­ian ship. “There are three things I like about being on an Ital­ian cruise ship,” Churchill sup­pos­edly says. “First, their cui­sine is unsur­passed. Sec­ond, their ser­vice is superb. And then, in time of emer­gency, there is none of this non­sense about women and chil­dren first.”
WSC observ­ing the Bar­bary apes on Gibral­tar, whose pop­u­la­tion he safe­guarded owing to the rumor that British rule would end if the apes dis­ap­peared, dur­ing a stop on one of his “Christina” cruises, after his retire­ment as Prime Minister.
Amus­ing to some, anath­ema to oth­ers, includ­ing rel­a­tives of the Costa Con­cor­dia pas­sen­gers and many embar­rassed Ital­ians, this is NOT by Win­ston Churchill. Some have attrib­uted it to Noël Cow­ard, but reader Nel­son Brid­well (com­ment below) refers us to the Quote Inves­ti­ga­tor, which tracks it to travel writer Henry J. Allen in 1917. It did appear in a book of Churchill quotes which—as invari­ably is the case when false quotes are given—provides nei­ther author­ity nor attribution.

Nei­ther this quo­ta­tion nor key words from it can be found in dig­i­tal scans of Churchill’s 15 mil­lion pub­lished words in books, arti­cles, speeches and pri­vate papers. Nor can I find any record of Churchill cruis­ing on an Ital­ian liner after his retire­ment as Prime Min­is­ter in 1955. (He voy­aged fre­quently on the Onas­sis yacht Christina, a Greek ves­sel of Liber­ian reg­istry, but not a cruise ship.)

A Cal­i­for­nia con­gress­woman igno­rantly com­pared the sink­ing of the Costa Con­cor­dia with that of the Titanic 100 years ago this April—which is his­tor­i­cally inane, poor ser­vice to the British crew­men of 1912, and the Ital­ians who strug­gled to save lives just recently. Churchill’s words to his wife about the Titanic serve equally to show how out of char­ac­ter would be his sup­posed remarks now cir­cu­lat­ing the Internet:

The strict obser­vance of the great tra­di­tions of the sea towards women and chil­dren reflects noth­ing but hon­our upon our civ­i­liza­tion…. I can­not help feel­ing proud of our race and its tra­di­tions as proved by this event. Boat loads of women and chil­dren toss­ing on the sea – safe and sound – and the rest Silence. Hon­our to their memory.

For more on the history of this tale, see the Quote Investigator blog.

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