March 20, 2015

Recovering at Chartwell

As Churchill went into surgery for a hernia operation he told the doctor: “Wake me up soon, I’ve got lots of work to do.” In addition to his political duties, he was eager to get on with his six-volume war memoirs (and he still had to publish his four-volume The History of the English-Speaking Peoples and numerous books of speeches). Upon returning to Chartwell, the bed-ridden recuperating patient received enough visitors to tire a perfectly healthy middle-aged person. He was 72 years old! At the same time he was concerned with the health of Clementine. “Cast care aside,” he wrote her. “What we may have to face cannot be worse than all we have crashed through together.”

“Wake me up soon, I’ve got lots of work to do.”

Before he could return to London, some backroom politicians plotted to create a Coalition Government led by Ernest Bevin, but the opposition of Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan killed the plan. Several Conservatives wanted Churchill to retire as party leader but none was willing to make the suggestion directly to him.

Churchill’s summer was spent working on his memoirs with a team of researchers led by Bill Deakin. Denis Kelly’s recollections of this phenomenal effort are told in Martin Gilbert’s Never Despair: Despite this busy schedule he still had time for relaxation, according to one of his detectives, Ronald Golding. While rabbit hunting on his farm “Mr. Churchill clambered slowly out of the Jeep. Just as he got his feet on the ground there was a shout from the others and a rabbit darted from the centre of the field. In a flash Mr. Churchill raised his gun and fired one barrel. The rabbit keeled over dead. it was a wonderful shot, and the usual Churchill luck. The others had been waiting hours for the opportunity.”

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