Finest Hour 129, Winter 2005-06
Around & About
Churchill Centre member Jack Mens of Frederick, Maryland, informs us that Cozy Cap Tavern, now Cozy’s Restaurant, a tourist stop, beer garden and dance hall near Thurmont, Maryland, was twice visited by Winston Churchill. Wilbur Freeze, then proprietor of the tavern, said the Prime Minister twice played the jukebox there on his visits to the late President Roosevelt’s “Shangri-la” (now Camp David) in the Catoctin Mountains. Mr. Freeze said that each time, Churchill came in on a Sunday afternoon, stood around for about fifteen minutes after dinner, and dropped nickels into the nickelodeon. Meanwhile, the President and Harry Hopkins waited patiently in the automobile outside. There was a popular rumor in and around Thurmont that an aide at least once tactfully told WSC that Roosevelt was waiting, although “the Prime Minister never kept him over long.”
Mr. Mens’ own town of Frederick, immortalized in Whitter’s famous poem “Barbara Frietchie,” also has its Churchill story. Here as the Presidential party passed through, FDR recited the poem’s best-known lines. Then from beside him came Churchill’s deep, expresive voice, reciting the entire poem, verses which stirred every heart:
“Up from the meadows rich with corn / Clear in the cool September morn / The clustered spires of Frederick stand / Green-walled by the hills of Maryland….Up the street came the rebel tread / Stonewall Jackson riding ahead / Under his slouched hat left and right / He glanced; the old flag met his sight / ‘Halt!’—the dust-brown ranks stood fast / ‘Fire!’—out blazed the rifle blast….‘Shoot if you must this old gray head’ / ‘But spare your country’s flag,’ she said…”
We can find one reference to a Churchill visit to Shangri-la. If he visited Cozy Cap Tavern on two Sundays, one was 16 May 1943, during the “Trident” conference (the party left Washington on Saturday and returned Monday). We would be grateful to know if and when Churchill made another visit. The full text of “Barbara Freitchie” is in FH 72.
Beginning 1950, reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) proliferated in Britain. Even Lord Louis Mountbatten stated his belief that the Earth was being visited by aliens. Churchill demanded to know the truth about flying saucers, historians Andy Roberts and David Clarke revealed while researching a book on UFOs and the Cold War. “What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to?” Churchill minuted his advisers in 1952. “What can it mean? What is the truth?”
Churchill was shown a report by Sir Henry Tizard, one of his most trusted scientific advisers during World War II and a key figure behind the development of radar. Tizard saw no threat from UFOs. All sightings, he reported, were explainable by natural events such as the weather or meteors, or were normal aircraft. But Britain followed the American lead in underplaying the sightings, and a few months later an order went out expressly banning all RAF personnel from discussing UFO reports with anyone not in the military.
Roberts and Clarke believe that the UFO sightings were the product of “mass hysteria,” an urban myth strong enough to penetrate the highest echelons.