This is the 180th issue of Finest Hour. The operating budget for the first year of what became the International Churchill Society was $180. The first issue of the journal was sent out to the founding members—all twelve of them—in the spring of 1968 with a note that the title was only “temporary” until a better suggestion arose. Fifty years on, the current editor has determined that the cutoff date for suggestions has now passed.
Following the death of Sir Winston Churchill in January 1965, a rash of commemorative stamps was produced in his memory. The major issuers were the quasi-autonomous Arab sheikdoms Ajman, Fujiera, and Sharjah, which printed countless different designs, called “black blots” by philatelists, that were always intended to bilk collectors rather than to frank envelopes. Each design deliberately included many variants so as to entice those obsessed with having “complete” collections.
Admiral of the Fleet The Right Honourable The Earl Mountbatten of Burma KG GCB OM GCSI GCIE GCVO DSO PC FRS 1900–1979 First Patron of the International Churchill Society 1971–1979
The American Topical Association, the presiding US authority on thematic stamps, appeared indifferent to this obvious charlatanism. After contacting other members of the ATA who had expressed an interest in Churchill, Langworth organized the Winston S. Churchill Study Unit (WSCSU) for the purpose of identifying and distinguishing between legitimately issued stamps and black blots.
Finest Hour began as a bi-monthly newsletter for the WSCSU. Dated “May-June 1968,” the first issue ran to seven, mimeographed pages including a three-page checklist of stamps. Annual dues were $2. Read More >
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.
Before he passed away on 13 March, Stephen Hawking sent the following letter to the International Churchill Society. We publish this tribute from a great scientist to a great statesman in honor of both men.
CAMBRIDGE—Churchill was the right man at the right time for the right job to fight a very nasty disease spreading throughout Europe—Nazism and Fascism.
For this Churchill spared no expense for Bletchley Park to fund Alan Turing and his colleagues to break the enigma code and win the war. His support of scientific development in those dark years has carried forward positively into more enlightened times. We thank him for not giving up.
Churchill and I have a couple of things in common:
Fifty years but only 180 issues of a quarterly magazine? The numbers do not appear to compute. This discrepancy, along with the entire history of the International Churchill Society, is explained by myself in the lead article of this our fiftieth anniversary issue. Churchill wrote that “the veils of the future are lifted one by one, and mortals must act from day to day.” This appositely describes the unexpected evolution of a tiny group of enthusiasts into the global organization to which you belong if you are reading these words.
Churchill led a life of adventure, and so “Churchill’s Adventures” is a suitable theme for our half-century milestone. Publishing a letter to the editor of a school newspaper may not appear to be adventurous, but it must be remembered that writing became Churchill’s primary source of income. Setting out on a career that Churchill sensed would be important to him was the beginning of a life-long adventure, as Fred Glueckstein shows.
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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.