A Memorial evening to honour The Rt. Hon. Sir Martin Gilbert CBE DLitt FRSL, Winston Churchill’s official biographer, was held on 24 November 2015 at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in Central London. Close to 600 guests from the United Kingdom and abroad attended the memorial including family, friends, parliamentarians and diplomats, scholars and historians, veterans and the military, Holocaust survivors and their families.
Lady Gilbert, Sir Martin’s widow, welcomed guests, and Rabbi Nicki Liss from Highgate Synagogue introduced the speakers who gave their personal tributes to Sir Martin. Leading the eulogists was former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who called Sir Martin an “unforgettable friend” who had helped “again and again with his wisdom.” Mr. Brown revealed that Sir Martin was to be made a Lord before his health declined in 2012.
Mr. Brown then told the audience that the next book to be written by Sir Martin was to be about Labour’s most recent spell in Downing Street. The former prime minister prompted laughter when he added, “what he would’ve made of us all, I guess we’ll never know.”
Mr. Brown also revealed that the historian and scholar, who penned epic tomes on Jewish history, Israel, and the World Wars before his death in February, had helped him to make the first speech given by a British Prime Minister to the Knesset—and then had inadvertently further helped diplomatic ties.
“When the [former] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and I exchanged presents, it’s a reflection of Martin’s pre-eminence and our shared admiration of him that without either of us knowing it, I had chosen to give Olmert a copy of Martin’s The Righteous, and Olmert had chosen to give me a copy of Martin’s The Story of Israel.”
Mr. Brown concluded his speech by paying heartfelt tribute to a man who he said “sailed the river of life brilliantly.” “Our hearts will still ache at his loss but he leaves behind imperishable works that will never be lost, and he lives on in the impact he has on all of us, on the millions who he never met but who meet him in the pages that he wrote.”
Speaking for the Churchill family, Sir Winston’s great-grandson, Randolph Churchill, said of Sir Martin, “The Churchill family owe him a debt of gratitude.”
A recital followed of Sir Martin’s favorite songs: There’ll Always Be an England (Parker & Charles), London Pride (Coward), and For He is an Englishman (Gilbert & Sullivan). Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld recited the Memorial Prayer, and the evening ended with the National Anthems, God Save the Queen and the Hatikvah.
Photo: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Lady Gilbert, Rt Hon Gordon Brown
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