Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014
Please tell me how to get a copy of all the original Chartwell Bulletins as written by Winston Churchill.
—W.B. STONECYPHER, VIA EMAIL
The Churchill Centre published twelve Chartwell Bulletins in book form in 1989 with an introduction and footnotes by Martin Gilbert and photos from Lady Soames’s albums. Bookfinder.com lists numerous copies as low as $23. Search their site or see this page: http://bit.ly/1rT2r4h.
Churchill sent many such bulletins from time to time, but these, to his absent wife during her 1935 South Seas voyage, are the most cohesive and entertaining. They are reproduced in Document Volume 12 of the official biography, but our booklet gathers them with family photos and more detailed notes by Sir Martin. Anyone interested should have a copy.
1 January 1935
My darling one, I send you Chartwell Bulletin No. 1 which will conclude like Napoleon’s famous bulletin after his Russian catastrophe, “The health of the Emperor is excellent.”
The pool has now been raised another fifteen inches. It is filling gradually from the spring through the old filter and is absolutely clear and limpid owing to the algae being asleep for the winter.
I have arranged to have one of those great mechanical diggers which is working close by to come here in a few days at a cost of £25 a week. In this one week he will do more than forty men do. There is no difficulty about bringing him in as he is a caterpillar and can walk over the most sloppy fields without doing any harm. His first task will be to make your “haha.” He will cut a four foot trench all along a line a few yards behind where the temporary fence runs now. He will throw the earth on the water garden side thus making a two foot higher slope. This gives a six foot depth sloped off on each side in a V shape. At the bottom of this the new run of permanent fox-proof fence will be erected, and when you walk down to the swimming pool you will not even see its nose showing over the top of the ground. Your eye will plunge, as you desire, across a valley of unbroken green.*
*The digger proved a mistake, as WSC related in Chartwell Bulletin 7: “The digger has involved me in a chapter of accidents and I doubt if I shall get out of it under £150, as it broke down at a critical moment through its cogwheels tearing. It was more than a week before it was repaired. This was due largely to the fact that the original contractors with whom I dealt rented the machine from another contractor, who borrowed it from a third, with the result that not one of them seemed to have the responsibility for making things go. Meanwhile the weather changed and downpours of rain occurred. The digger sunk deeper into the mud and finally wallowed himself into an awful pit. It became necessary to bring four hydraulic jacks, which though they are quite small things and one man can handle them, can lift thirty tons. Then railway sleepers had to be sunk in the ground under the digger to make a foundation for these jacks, and as the jacks hoisted the digger, of course the sleepers sunk deeper.
However after nearly a week the animal emerged from his hole and practically finished the job, though there is still a fortnight’s tidying up for five men. This animal is very strong with his hands but very feeble with his caterpillar legs, and as the fields are sopping, they had the greatest difficulty in taking him away. They will have to lay down sleepers all the way from the lake to the gate over which he will waddle on Monday. I shall be glad to see the last of him.
Mrs. Donkey Jack** will very likely never be able to walk again as it is unlikely her fractured ankle will knit together at her age. She was knocked down by a workman on a push bicycle and no compensation of any kind can be obtained for her in this desperate misfortune. Should the worst be realised I shall try and get her into a decent home for the rest of her days at some small cost.
Meanwhile her savage dog (the little one) still stands a faithful sentry over her belongings. He allows Arnold to bring food at a respectable distance and consents to eat it, but otherwise he remains like the seraph Abdiel in Paradise Lost:
“ Among innumerable false, unmoved, Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified; His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal.”
**Mr. and Mrs. ‘Donkey’ Jack were gypsies who lived on the common near Chartwell with their donkey. After Mr. ‘Donkey’ Jack died, Churchill, who with his romantic nature was captivated by gypsy life, gave Jack’s widow permission to camp in the Chartwell wood, where she eventually died.