Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018
By Randolph L.S. Churchill
Fifty years ago, the very first issue of Finest Hour published an extract from a letter written by my grandfather and namesake to the fledgling Winston S. Churchill Study Unit of the American Philatelic Association, the precursor of the International Churchill Society. Noting that he knew “nothing about stamps,” grandpapa Randolph nevertheless said that he would “try to answer any questions [the group] have in mind.”
Sadly, there was only time for grandfather to be named Honorary Member Number One before he passed away in June 1968. The second issue of Finest Hour was a tribute to his memory and included notes from my father Winston and my great-grandmother Clementine acknowledging letters of sympathy sent to them on behalf of the members of the study unit.
Today I am proud to serve as President of the organization that grew out of those simple beginnings. I know I speak for the whole of the extended Churchill family when I say that we owe an enormous debt to the International Churchill Society: to all its patrons, officers, members, and supporters past and present.
More than a century ago, in July 1915, my great- grandfather was at a low point in his career, and was about to resign from the government to take up a commission on the Western Front. In a letter to Clementine, to be opened only in the event of his death, he wrote: “Do not grieve for me too much. I am a spirit confident of my rights. Death is only an incident, & not the most important which happens to us in this state of being.” He urged her to “look forward, feel free, rejoice in Life, cherish the children, guard my memory.
The ICS has guarded that memory. In the oft-repeated words of its late Patron, my great aunt Mary (The Lady Soames LG DBE), ICS has kept the memory green and the record accurate. What began with the dedication and enthusiasm of Richard Langworth CBE and a few like-minded souls has become an organisation with chapters and affiliates throughout North America, Britain, and around the world.
Finest Hour is the Society’s flagship. It has grown to become a highly regarded journal of substance, combining serious and groundbreaking academic scholarship with a popular passion for its subject. It consistently shows the relevance of Churchill’s memory and legacy to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Under the leadership of Chairman Laurence Geller CBE, whose generosity has made the Churchill archives freely accessible to schools worldwide, the International Churchill Society has gone from strength to strength. The National Churchill Library and Center in Washington, D.C. is now a physical reality and a dynamic platform for all things Churchill. It joins the Churchill Archives Centre, the Churchill War Rooms, the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Chartwell, and Blenheim Palace as the means by which new generations can learn about the greatest Briton.
Our family feels very proud of this great milestone in the history of the International Churchill Society, and we salute all that have come forward to cherish the memory of Sir Winston. As we face the next fifty years, let us remember the words of my great-grandfather when he told the defenders of freedom during their Darkest Hour, “Come then, let us go forward together.”
THE PRIME MINISTER
Congratulations to the International Churchill Society on your 50th anniversary.
The ICS is known across the globe for helping to preserve the memory of Sir Winston Churchill through its publications, conferences and educational programmes. I am grateful to the ICS for their work and for demonstrating the continued relevance of Churchill’s life and legacy to new generations.
Every day, I walk past Churchill’s portrait as I enter my office in 10 Downing Street. As I do so, I often reflect upon his remarkable leadership during our country’s darkest hour. That leadership inspired millions of people in the United Kingdom and all over the world to stand firm against tyranny, and it remains an inspiration to all those who still fight now for freedom and democracy.
The preservation of freedom requires constant vigilance and must never be taken for granted. As we face new challenges in the 21st century, Churchill’s example should continue to inspire us.
So once again, congratulations on your 50th anniversary and I wish you well as you continue your important mission for another 50 years and beyond.