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Churchill’s Yacht? Not!

Luxury Yacht for Sale Wrongly Reported as Churchill’s

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The story broke in mid-January that a luxury yacht offered for sale in France at the asking price of €2 million was originally commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1936. News organizations around the world picked up and carried the claim without providing any proof that the boat was once owned by Churchill. The Churchill Centre quickly moved to investigate the story knowing that Churchill never owned a yacht in his life.

All versions of the story report that the 127-foot boat was built by Thornycroft Shipyard in 1936 to Churchill’s own specifications and features and on-board bar that he personally ordered. Reportedly the vessel was initially called Amazone when it was supposedly owned by Churchill but was renamed by subsequent owners first as Welsh Liberty and then My Evangeline before being given back its original name. The current owner states that she purchased the yacht from a “luxury gangster.”

Allen Packwood, the Director of the Churchill Archives Centre stated, “I immediately checked our catalogue for references to ‘Amazon’(or variants thereof) and to ‘yacht’ between 1934 and 1938 and found nothing. The only references to yachts were to the Rosaura (Lord Moyne’s yacht on which Churchill and his wife did travel as guests) and the Admiralty-owned yacht Enchantress, which Churchill used in his official capacity as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911–15.”

David Lough, author of No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, has studied the Churchill family’s financial records in exhaustive detail and stated, “I am confident that the thousands of pages of Churchill’s bank accounts which I scrutinised held no evidence of any purchase of a yacht. Given the date of the alleged purchase is 1936, I can be be even more confident: Churchill’s general financial condition at the time would simply have ruled it out.”

Some versions of the story have Churchill selling the yacht in 1940 for the even more luxurious Christina. It is no secret that the Christina was originally a Canadian frigate during the Second World War as reported here in 2013. After the war, the decommissioned naval vessel was sold to Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis who re-fitted it as a yacht and welcomed Churchill onboard as a guest several times in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Churchill could not have afforded the Christina or any other yacht. In any case, in 1940 he was busy with somewhat weightier matters than playing around with boats.

To get to the bottom of things, the Chartwell Bulletin contacted Olivier Créhange, director of the agency handling the sale (Coldwell Banker Paris West Residential), and asked if the the media had mis-reported the story. M. Créhange replied:

“As you guessed there was clearly a misunderstanding with the press statement. The owner told us that this boat was the possession of the British Government and was put at the disposal of Churchill when he was First Lord of the Admiralty [in 1939–40]. She never said that Amazone was the property of Sir Winston Churchill. She knows that he used it, sailed on it, but she never said that it was his property. We have also made some research and found that the Amazone was directly involved in Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.”

The Churchill Archives Centre holds the papers of Admiral Bertram Ramsay including a volume of despatches for Operation Dynamo that contains a list of ships involved. Assistant Archivist Ceri Humphries told the Chartwell Bulletin that she, “could not find Welsh Liberty on the list at all but there was an Amazone—listed under British Ships in a subsection of ‘Dutch Skoots (Commissioned with Naval Crews.)’”

All that can be said for certain at this time is that the boat may well be the same one that participated in Operation Dynamo. Thus far, however, no evidence has been produced to show that Churchill himself ever travelled on the vessel under any name. Nor is there evidence that any of the major news organizations that carried the original story have issued corrections.

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