March 15, 2015

Finest Hour 159, Summer 2013

Page 41

In “FDR’s and WSC’s Bahamian Ramblings” (FH 145: 18), we speculated on whether Churchill ever visited Eleuthera, the long, crescent-shaped island fifty miles east of Nassau that serves as FH’s winter office.

The answer—much to the disappointment of us island residents—is no.

Readers will recall that we were informed of a photograph of Sir Winston and Lord Beaverbrook, allegedly snapped at Gun Point, the beautiful ex-Beaverbrook house on the northern tip of Eleuthera; but we were unable to arrange a visit to see the photo itself.

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Max Beaverbrook built Gun Point in 1943-44 (not after World War II as earlier reported), supposedly on land presented to him by the Crown in thanks for his role as Minister of Aircraft Production early in the war. Churchill’s opportunities to visit there were limited. The most likely time was 1953, when he was Beaverbrook’s guest in Jamaica and asked about visiting “Barbados.” He could have meant “Bahamas,” a 400-mile flight for Beaverbrook’s private plane—but the Churchill Archives Centre found nothing to indicate that he strayed from Jamaica.

Last February, by kind courtesy of the caretaker, we did get to tour Gun Point, which was extensively rebuilt after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It is a remarkable house, built of sturdy Abaco pine and crammed with historic photos from early days in The Bahamas.

The subject photo is affixed to a wall and cannot be removed, but we were able to take a passable photograph. It bears the legend, “Lord Beaverbrook and Sir Winston Churchill at Gun Point Eleuthera sometime after World War II.”

Immediately I knew I had seen this photo before. Back in New Hampshire, my library produced it within A.J.P. Taylor’s biography of Beaverbrook; it is probably also in some Churchill books.

Taylor’s caption reads: “With Churchill at Cap d’Ail, 1958.” Cap d’Ail is of course the location of La Capponcina, Beaverbrook’s villa in the south of France, which Churchill visited several times in the Fifties.

So which location is the right one?

Jane Ford, chief executive at the Beaverbrook Foundation in London, came to our rescue, proving that the venue is definitely Cap d’Ail:

“In my database,” she wrote, “I have found two other photographs of Churchill and Beaverbrook taken at the same time as the picture in question, both labelled ‘1958 LB and Churchill at La Capponcina.’

“Another photograph on file shows the same archway that is in the background of the picture you found, at a different angle, and clearly shows that it is La Capponcina, even down to the similar foliage!”

Eleutherans, alas, will have to be satisfied with knowing that Roosevelt came closer to our island than Churchill. On 13 December 1940, FDR’s naval vessel moored off Miller’s Anchorage to meet the Duke of Windsor, governor of The Bahamas, though the President did not go ashore. But the closest Churchill came was fifty miles away in Nassau, during his recuperation from his New York traffic accident in 1932. RML

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