Sir Winston Churchill was born on St. Andrew’s Day 146 years ago this week on 30 November 1874. His arrival on the feast day of Scotland’s patron saint was the first of many connections he would have in his life with the northern realm. One of the most emblematic, and perhaps ironic, of Churchill’s Scottish connections was his close friendship with a founder and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Andrew Dewar Gibb.
During the First World War, Churchill commanded the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the early months of 1916. He was a Lieutenant Colonel. Serving as his adjutant was Captain Andrew Dewar Gibb, later a major, who went on to become one of the founders of the SNP and party leader from 1936 to 1940.
Under the pseudonym “Captain X,” Dewar Gibb released a book in 1924 about his time with Churchill in the trenches. An expanded version of the book was re-released in 2016 (With Winston Churchill at the Front) under the author’s real name. This new edition includes a foreword by Randolph Churchill, Winston’s great-grandson, and an introduction by Dewar Gibb’s son Nigel, now eighty-eight years old and a resident of Glasgow.
To mark the centenary of the time their families first connected in the heat of war, Randolph and his family returned with Nigel to Ploegsteert (or “Plugstreet” as the soldiers called it) near Ypres in Belgium in 2016. Together they visited where Nigel’s father and Randolph’s great-grandfather served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the trenches of Flanders. The people of Ploegsteert gave them a reception, and also celebrated Nigel’s revised and enhanced edition of his father’s book.
Nigel Dewar Gibb said, “My father was very proud to have served with Churchill and prouder still of his country. My family and I are delighted at efforts to bring this chapter to the fore of people’s minds.” “I hope it will serve as a starting gun for more discussion about Churchill’s connections to Scotland,” Dewar Gibb continued, “as well as a happy remembrance of my father’s lifetime commitment to Scottish public life. Father went on to become Regius Professor of Law at Glasgow University from 1934 till 1958.”
Randolph Churchill said that “the Churchill family is delighted that efforts are being made to bring together my great-grandfather’s relationship with Scotland. He not only had great admiration for Scotland but considered many Scots among his friends.” “My great-grandfather had immense respect for the men under his command,” Churchill continued, “this story is one of the many about Scotland that has perhaps fallen out of public knowledge.”
“Whatever the political debates of today,” Churchill concluded, “they have no bearing on an objective view of history. My great-grandfather had a plethora of connections to Scotland, her politicians, her institutions and her people. He was quite correct when he said he owed Scotland his wife, his constituency, and his regiment.”
In his book, Andrew Dewar Gibb MBE QC (1888–1974) said of Winston Churchill, “I am firmly convinced that no more popular officer ever commanded troops. As a soldier he was hard-working, persevering and thorough. He is a man who is apparently always to have enemies. He made none in his old regiment, but left behind him there, men who will always be his loyal partisans and admirers, and who are proud of having served in the Great War under the leadership of one who is beyond question a great man.”