Dean of Churchill Scholars Was a Great Historian and Humanitarian
The Churchill Centre is deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved friend and colleague Sir Martin Gilbert. Sir Martin passed away peacefully in London on 3 February after a long and serious illness. He was 78. In addition to being the official biographer of Winston Churchill, he was a leading historian of the 20th century. Incredibly, he produced more than eighty books. As an author he wrote on topics that included both World Wars, Jewish studies and the Holocaust. As an editor he put together a dozen volumes of Churchill documents. He also produced a series of historical atlases.
Sir Martin was a longtime honorary member of The Churchill Centre who often spoke at Centre events through the years and contributed many scholarly articles to our journal Finest Hour. The autumn 2014 edition of Finest Hour celebrated his career with tributes from his numerous friends including former Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Gordon Brown.
Laurence Geller CBE, Chairman of The Churchill Centre, released the following statement:
The world has lost one of its greatest historians. The Churchill Centre and all those who have been touched by the life and times of Sir Winston Churchill mourn the one man who did more than all others to keep the memory of Britain’s finest son green. Sir Martin Gilbert’s vast and wide-ranging contributions to history have left us an eternal legacy that vividly and brilliantly link the past to the future. We are blessed to have had this great man in our lives.
Martin’s life was deeply enriched by his ever-encouraging, supporting and wonderful wife, Esther. We are so thankful to her and pray that soon her pain will recede and be replaced by happy and loving memories of an all-too-short life spent together.
On a personal note, Martin lit the flame of my interest in Churchill, nurtured and fed the fire within me and encouraged my lifelong passion for Sir Winston. He was a great friend and mentor to me, and my life was much richer for his being an important part of it. I am so very sad and will miss my friend.
This sad news, the deaths last year of our Patron, Mary Soames, and longtime honorary member the 11th Duke of Marlborough combined with last week’s celebrations of Churchill’s incredible life remind us of the all-too-quickly-diminishing close links we have with Sir Winston. It stresses the importance of the work we all do in keeping his memory green and his lessons so very relevant.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Esther.
Sir Martin was buried in the British section of the cemetery in Beit Shemesh, Israel just west of Jerusalem. A complete obituary will appear in the spring issue of Finest Hour.