May 22, 2013

Finest Hour 147, Summer 2010

Page 16

Farewell at Bladon

By Mary Soames, 9 March 2010

National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City

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Gathered here today to bid him goodbye for the present, we think first of Luce in her irreparable loss: she must be exhausted for she nursed him virtually single-handed. He only wanted her to look after him, and she did so to the last ounce of her strength.

To such a gathering as this it is unnecessary to give an account of Winston’s career. Rather let us consider the person he was. Let us leave the painful memories of these latest weeks—when he suffered so much so bravely—and let us go back to his earliest days at Chequers and Minterne.

His mother, Pamela, had been sent out of London in the last weeks of her pregnancy away from London and its air raids to the safety and quiet of Chequers. I was living there at the time doing war work in nearby Aylesbury, and my diary for 10 October 1940 reads: “4.40 a.m. Winston Churchill Junior arrived! Hooray. Pam weak but happy. Baby not at all weak & only partially happy!” His grandmother, Clementine Churchill, recorded his arrival more formally in the Chequers Visitor’s book.

His boyhood days and holidays were mostly spent staying with his Digby grandparents at Minterne in Dorset. When asked about his grandfathers, Winston would say one was Prime Minister and the other a milkman. This referred to Lord Digby, whose farm supplied milk to a wide neighbourhood mostly delivered by Lord Digby himself, often accompanied and assisted by little Winston.

From an early age Winston had no doubt about his future career—he would follow his father and grandfather into politics—and with his strong personality and confidence (some might say at times overconfidence) he fashioned a rod for his own back. But much though he admired and sought to emulate the great Winston—he, to his credit, had his own often controversial agenda.

He had a keen sense of adventure and he loved flying, which demonstrated itself when he flew round Africa with a friend in a monoplane. He wrote several books, but his most remarkable one was the excellent life of his father, Randolph, His Father’s Son. He was generous in helping causes and individuals, and as an MP for twenty-seven years he earned lasting regard and affection among his constituents. We will remember his enthusiasm, his warm and affectionate nature—and his courageous confrontation of the “last enemy.”

I will end my thoughts today with these lines from Rabindranath Tagore:

“Death is not extinguishing the light, but putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

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