Ruth Lavine with Mary Soames at the
20th International Churchill Society conference in Bermuda in 2003.
Finest Hour 189, Third Quarter 2020
This spring the oldest member of the International Churchill Society celebrated her 100th birthday. Ruth Lavine was born in Germany in 1920. Her family came to the United States when she was thirteen in order to escape the Nazis. Ruth earned her law degree from the University of Southern California in 1943 and became an estate planning attorney.
“My husband was in the US military during the Second World War. When we started dating in 1940, he would read Winston Churchill’s most recent speeches to me, and we avidly followed his career. Our son Raymond told us about the Churchill Society, and joining was one of the best decisions we made. We took wonderful trips with other Churchillians and got to meet Lady Soames and Celia Sandys.
“After my husband died in 1994, I continued attending Churchill gatherings. I look forward to each one and meeting with all the wonderful people. I love history, and each conference gives me more insight about one of the greatest statesmen in history.
Edwina Sandys is an award-winning artist based in New York City. Her books include Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting (2015).
“May we dedicate ourselves to hastening the day when all God’s children live in a world without walls, that would be the greatest empire of all.”
President Ronald Reagan, 9 November 1990, Fulton, Missouri
Thirty years ago on 9 November 1989 along with the rest of the world, I was glued to the television screen, watching the Berlin Wall crumble and fall. The souvenir hunters immediately started chipping away. It was, however, only when I learned that the East Germans had removed long stretches of the Wall intact and were selling them that an idea came to me.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” I thought, “to get a piece of the wall, make a sculpture out of it, and then place it at Westminster College?” This would forever link the Berlin Wall with my grandfather Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech made at the college in Fulton, Missouri in 1946 and in which he famously said:
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe…in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject…not only to Soviet influence, but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.
On 12 February 1945, Peter Solly-Flood, former Special Operations Executive operative and then Second Secretary of the British Embassy in Washington, wrote to Major Gen. Harry H. Vaughan, chief aide to President Harry Truman. Solly-Flood’s message was short and his topic small.
When the letter arrived at the White House, Gen. Vaughan received a clear message: “on the occasion of his visit there on the 5th of March” Winston Churchill did not expect any sort of gift or present from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Solly-Flood noted that the former Prime Minister “is very much looking forward to visit there for its own sake alone.”
Churchill clearly appreciated the invitation to Fulton, which had been extended four months earlier. The great statesman was particularly pleased to know he would be introduced by President Truman. When the day arrived, Churchill, in the opening of his historic “Sinews of Peace” (“Iron Curtain”) speech, underscored his feeling on the matter:
It is also an honor, perhaps almost unique, for a private visitor to be introduced to an academic audience by the President of the United States. Amid his heavy burdens, duties, and responsibilities—unsought but not recoiled from—the President has traveled a thousand miles to dignify and magnify our meeting here to-day and to give me an opportunity of addressing this kindred nation….
The idea of establishing a permanent memorial to Winston Churchill in the United States began in 1961 during Westminster College’s commencement ceremonies, when Westminster President Dr. R. L. “Larry” Davidson and members of the St. Louis Branch of the English-Speaking Union hatched a bold plan to move the war-damaged church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury from London, England, to Fulton, Missouri.
The original church dates to the twelfth century, but it was rebuilt in 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London. It stood proudly at the corner of Love Lane and Aldermanbury, not far from the medieval Guildhall and near Wren’s masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral.
On the night of 30 December 1940, catastrophe struck again when the church suffered a direct hit by an incendiary bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe. When morning came on the final day of that year, only the external stonework and the eight columns with acanthus-leaf capitals remained. Wren’s church lay in ruins. It remained so for more than twenty years until Larry Davidson saw an article in Life magazine just before Westminster’s commencement ceremony. That Life article prompted a discussion that transformed the Westminster College campus and established a permanent memorial to Winston Churchill in the United States.
His Excellency Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States
Israeli Ambassador to Give Enid and R. Crosby Kemper Lecture at Fellows Weekend
The Association of Churchill Fellows, founded in 1969, is an honorary society of people dedicated to the development and use of the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College. Past Fellows include Churchill’s namesake grandson, Winston Churchill; Walter Cronkite; President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Sir David Cannadine, Lady Mary Soames; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Sir Martin Gilbert, International Churchill Society Chairman Laurence Geller CBE; and the Right Honorable Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The Association of Churchill Fellows hosts annually a “Churchill Fellows Weekend,” an occasion that brings together renown speakers, statesmen, and Churchillians at the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
His Excellency Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, will be the keynote speaker for Churchill Fellows Weekend 2018, to be held March 24-25.
David McFall RA Woodford Statue of Sir Winston Churchill, Bronze, 1959.
Finest Hour 179, Winter 2018
“Add my most loyal salutations to you-know-who and tell him I’m going to do him justice in bronze.”1 —Sculptor David McFall to Wendy Reves
Timothy Riley is Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator of the National Churchill Museum.
On 28 January 1958, sculptor David McFall RA arrived in the south of France with a singular mission: to capture an image of one of the most famous and most recognizable men in the world—Sir Winston Churchill.
The formal announcement that McFall, thirty-eight and a native Scot, would be commissioned to create an eight-foot bronze statue of Sir Winston as a tribute to the statesman’s thirty-three years representing Woodford (formerly Epping) would follow in the weeks ahead, but McFall wasted little time in getting to work.
When McFall arrived at Villa La Pausa, Rocquebrune, Cap Martin, the home of Churchill’s publisher Emery Reves and his American wife Wendy, the sculptor found his subject on the brink of illness.
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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.