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Action This Day

Action This Day – Winter 1894, 1919, 944

Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019

Page 38

By Michael McMenamin


125 Years ago
Winter 1894 • Age 19
“Keep Down the Smoking”

With graduation from Sandhurst pending, Winston began to consider his future service in the Army. On 11 January, he wrote to his mother and listed five reasons why he preferred a cavalry regiment rather than an infantry regiment. First, promotions came faster in the Cavalry than in the Infantry. Second, commissions also came “much sooner” in the Cavalry. Third, the 4th Hussars were going to India, and, if he joined the regiment before it left, he “would have 6 or 7 subalterns below me in a very short time.” Fourth, Cavalry regiments were “always given good stations in India and generally taken great care of by the Government,” whereas the Infantry “have to take what they can get.” Fifth, keeping a horse was much cheaper in the Cavalry, because the government provided stabling, forage, and labor.

Winston had also listed these same reasons in a letter to his mother’s friend, Colonel Brabazon of the 4th Hussars. In the letter to his mother, he added a sixth reason that included more attractive uniforms, the advantages of riding over walking, as well as being in a regiment where his mother knew some of the officers.

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Action This Day – Autumn 1892, 1917, 1942

Finest Hour 178, Fall 2018

Page 40

By Michael McMenamin


125 Years ago
Autumn 1892 • Age 18
“If He Fails Again…”

Winston’s brother Jack joined him at Harrow in the fall and the two boys shared a room. On 24 September, their mother wrote to Winston: “I hope you & Jack are settled and comfortable. Do write & tell me all about it, & what you find your room wants.” In fact, their room did not want for much as he advised her in a letter on one occasion: “The room is very beautiful. We purchased in London sufficiency of ornaments to make it look simply magnificent.” He later wrote that “The room is now very nice, in fact it is universally spoken of as the best room in the House.”

On 25 October, Lord Randolph advised his sons that their mother was “extremely ill yesterday and we were rather alarmed.” In fact, Lady Randolph was diagnosed on 12 October as having an enlarged ovary that was causing her a great deal of pain for which the treating physician had advised her to “rest and do nothing to bring on pain.” By 22 October, her condition had not improved and she was given morphine as “the absolute necessity of controlling the pain.” The problem did not clear up until early in December.

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Action This Day Summer 1892, Summer 1917, Summer 1942

Finest Hour 177, Summer 2017

Page 47

By Michael McMenamin


125 Years ago
Summer 1892 • Age 17
“I Shall Think about Putting Him in Business”

Throughout his long life, Winston was often his own worst enemy. It began at an early age. The summer of 1892 for Winston is best known for his first failure to pass the entrance exams to Sandhurst. Yet on 30 June, the day after he finished the exams, he wrote a characteristically optimistic letter to his father (“I did very well”) about the marks he believed he had achieved in the exams on the last day.

In the event, success eluded him. The total points for all eight subjects were 12,000, and the minimum passing score was 6457 or roughly 54%. Winston’s score was 5100 or 42.5%. He fell below a passing mark on six of the eight exams. The only two subjects in which he was above the average were French (1218 of 2000 or 61%) and English Composition (305 of 500 or 61%). Out of 693 candidates, only the top ninety passed the exams. Winston placed 390th.

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