February 8, 2015

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 13

By Niels Bjerre

“She encouraged us to keep the flame alive….”

It is twenty years since I received my first letter of appreciation from Lady Soames, a few weeks after the opening of my first Churchill exhibition by the actor Robert Hardy at the Royal Arsenal Museum. I was touched by her deep interest in what we were doing, and received her letter of approval with deep pride.

2024 International Churchill Conference

Join us for the 41st International Churchill Conference. London | October 2024

I am among those fortunate enough to have met her on many occasions, not least in October 2000, when she came to open “Remember Winston Churchill,” an exhibit at the newspapers building at Kongens Nytorv, marking the 50th anniversary of her father’s visit to Copenhagen. As a little surprise, I collected her in the same Humber Super Snipe that had carried her father through the streets in 1950. We conveyed her to the Scandic Hotel, where she had a splendid 18th floor suite looking out over the city.

A few hours later we drove to the opening, where she was warmly greeted by a trumpet fanfare used by the World War II Danish Resistance. The invited audience included former Premier Paul Schlüter; Mærsk McKinney-Møller of the Mærsk shipping line; the Churchill Club’s Knud Pedersen; British Ambassador Philip Astley; and René Højris, who lent part of his vast Churchilliana collection. Lady Soames gave a warm speech saying she was thrilled to see the affection that the Danish people still had for her father, and we toasted her with Pol Roger champagne.

The next day took her to the Oscar Nemon bust at the Churchill Park; the Museum of Danish Resistance, where her guide was the director Esben Kjeldbæk; and the royal treasury at Rosenborg Castle. After a private lunch with Mr. Mærsk McKinney Møller I met her at the beautiful Hotel d’Angleterre, opposite the Churchill exhibition, where she met Gunnar Dyrberg and Vagn Jespersen from “Holger Danske,” one of the most famous resistance groups in Copenhagen. I remember how excited they were to meet her.

Another memorable time with her was the 2006 UK Churchill Society tour to Potsdam, where she happily revisited the places she had been with her father. (See previous article.) I noticed that all the Germans we met were interested in talking to her, notably the former Chancellor, Dr. Helmut Kohl, who made an impressive and heartfelt dinner speech about Churchill and Europe.

In 2007 I was invited to Windsor Castle to attend the annual service of the Order of the Garter. The last time we met was at her home in Kensington in June of last year, welcomed like an old friend by Lady Soames and her cute dog. She seemed so ageless! It was fantastic to read about her amazing life in her 2011 memoir, A Daughter’s Tale.

Lady Soames did so much for us Churchillians. Her pride in her father’s legacy was manifest, and she encouraged us all to keep the flame alive and the record true. I shall never forget our “special relationship.”

Mr. Bjerre, a longtime Churchill Centre member and founder of the Danish Churchill Club, has organized several exhibits and events in Copenhagen. His account of the 2000 exhibition is in our website at: http://bit.ly/W7XM3S.

A tribute, join us




Get the Churchill Bulletin delivered to your inbox once a month.