Although Winston was almost twenty years old he still received letters of admonition from his father who thought that he wasted too much time and travelled to London too frequently. Lord Randolph wrote his wife that he had written Winston that “in all qualities of steadiness taking care of things and of not doing stupid things Jack is vastly his superior.”
Unknown to his father Churchill was making plans for his future career. He was accompanied by Sir Julian Byng, who later commanded the Canadian Corps at Vimy Ridge and served as Governor-General of Canada, on a visit to the 4th Hussars, a cavalry regiment.
“I never saw him again, except as a swiftly-fading shadow.”
From his mother he received the following: ‘A bird whispered to me that you did not sleep in yr own bed last night. Write to me all about it. I am not sure if Papa wld approve.” Winston replied that his father only expressed disapproval about visiting London. Once again he expressed his career desire. “How I wish I were going into the 4th instead of those old Rifles. It would not cost a penny more and the regiment goes to India in 3 years which is just right for me. I hate the Infantry – in which physical weaknesses will render me nearly useless in service and the only thing I am showing an aptitude for athletically – riding – will be no good to me.” The ambitious young man pointed out that “of all regiments in the army the Rifles is slowest for promotion.” He knew that only when he did well at Sandhurst would it be the time to tackle his father on his career path.
When the opportunity arose, however, he declined to raise his specific wishes with his father. “It was very pleasant staying with Colonel Brabazon at Aldershot. He has made such a smart regiment of the 4th. They used to be considered very slack – bt he has worked a wonderful change. It was quite extraordinary how clean and smart the men were. It was the first time I have ever messed with a regiment – and the ceremony interested me very much.’
The deterioration of Lord Randolph’s health was quite noticeable. Against his doctor’s advice, he decided to embark, accompanied by Lady Randolph, upon a world tour. He telegraphed to the Secretary of State for War, Sir Henry Campbell-Banneman, a request that Winston be released from Sandhurst for ‘my last day in England.’ Winston and Jack came to London to see their parents depart. His father had less than a year to live. Winston later wrote of the event: ‘We drove to the station the next morning – my mother, my younger brother and I. In spite of the great beard which he had grown during his South Africa Journey four years before, his face looked terribly haggard and worn with mental pain. He patted me on the knee in a gesture which however simple was perfectly informing. There followed his long journey round the world. I never saw him again, except as a swiftly-fading shadow.”
Get the Churchill Bulletin delivered to your inbox once a month.