Members of the International Churchill Society gathered aboard the RMS Queen Mary on December 8th to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the ship’s arrival in Long Beach, California with the opening of a new exhibit. “Their Finest Hours: Winston Churchill and the Queen Mary” was officially dedicated by Sir Winston’s great-granddaughter Jennie Churchill and International Churchill Society Chairman Laurence Geller. Watch a short video of the highlights.
The evening began in the Royal Salon with a talk by Felix Klos about his new book Churchill’s Last Stand: The Struggle to Unite Europe. Ship’s historian Commodore Everette Hoard then discussed Churchill’s ten voyages aboard the Queen Mary, which took place both during war and peace. Afterwards, ICS members enjoyed a Pol Roger champagne reception before Jennie Churchill spoke about the opening of the exhibit and cut the ceremonial ribbon.
The multi-media exhibition features sets designed for the critically-acclaimed film Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. The Imperial War Museum’s Phil Reed worked closely with the filmmakers to ensure authenticity. Three of these sets now serve as the gateway to the Churchill exhibit on the ship: the Cabinet Room, Map Room, and Churchill’s bedroom. The exhibit is wonderful for local schoolchildren as visitors are encouraged to touch the displays. Additionally, there is a replica of Churchill’s stateroom when he travelled aboard the ship during the Second World War.
The British Vice-Consul for Los Angeles presented the ship with a framed replica of War Cabinet minutes made during one of Churchill’s wartime passages. On behalf of the International Churchill Society, Chairman Laurence Geller presented the ship with a framed copy of Churchill’s customs declaration form upon arrival in Southampton after his 1949 journey on the Queen Mary. Included on the declaration are 600 cigars, a generous supply of brandy, and—most intriguingly—several rubber ducks.
The International Churchill Society and the Queen Mary have signed a formal agreement of cooperation, which includes reciprocal marketing activities that will lead to closer partnership in the future and make the ship the center of ICS activities on the Pacific coast. Stephen Sowards, General Manager of the Queen Mary said, “We are truly appreciative and look forward to a long-lasting relationship with our new friends both here in California and in the UK.”
The new arrangement fulfills a vision set out a generation ago by Jennie’s father, Sir Winston’s namesake grandson Winston Churchill. With the opening of the National Churchill Library and Center last year in Washington, D.C. on the Atlantic coast and the alliance with the National Churchill Museum in the Mid-West, ICS now has a presence across North America to the United Kingdom.
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