By BRIAN KRAPF
In the continual search for Churchilliana, its always gratifying to discover material documenting the emotional connection between Winston Churchill and the British people. The care and concern he continually showed for them was not feigned for cameras or reporters—it was heartfelt and palpable. His unrestrained emotions while walking through bomb rubble, consoling Blitz survivors, or rallying soldiers are all well documented. Past articles here have displayed wartime pieces of folk art, hand made by citizens who cared enough to spend their time and skill carving, painting, or sculpting the Prime Minister as a gesture of admiration and faith in his leadership. Even if Churchill sometimes did not have the full support of the Conservative party or his wartime coalition, he almost always had the support of the people as he bolstered their spirits and led them through war.
The letter pictured here is yet another form of the support and admiration the public showed Churchill. A Mrs. Foxwell sent the Prime Minister a cheque on behalf of her young daughter Zia to be used for the war effort. Since Mrs. Foxwell’s address was in Wiltshire, it is unclear why the cheque would have been acknowledged as being in the amount of “20 dollars” and not pounds sterling. Nor does the response indicate what kind of dollars were received (US, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand currency would all have been possibilities).
Whatever currency was used, Mrs. Foxwell received in response the letter from Number 10 shown here. It confirms receipt of the donation and the assurance that “Mr. Churchill is at once passing it on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.” The letter of acknowledgement was written and signed by Ms. Elizabeth Watson, who, along with Ms. Kathleen Hill, was one of the Prime Minister’s principal typists. As we all know, Churchill’s pool of typists was kept busy 24 hours a day. Ms. Watson and Ms. Hill, however, were the secretaries most often called to his bedroom in the early morning to take dictation.
According to financial websites, the value of one US dollar from 1941 would be worth $18.31 today. If Mrs. Foxwell’s cheque was in US dollars, therefore, the current equivalent value would be $366.20. If by chance the donation was actually in sterling, the value would have been higher still. One British pound from 1941 would be worth £51.78 today making a £20 cheque in 1941 worth £1035.60 today. In either case, the donation was very generous considering that, in 1941, the British people were living under austere wartime rationing and restrictions. The Prime Minister’s thank-you letter has been preserved, ensuring this wartime gesture of support and patriotism has not been forgotten.
Brian Krapf’s book We Want Winston!—A Treasury of Churchill Memorabilia will be published later this year.