Summer 1897 (Age 22)

Churchill makes his maiden political speech

On July 26 Churchill made his maiden political speech. He was pleased with the press reports on his efforts.

On the same day an uprising began on the Indian frontier. Sir Bindon Blood had offered to let him join future expeditions in the area, and Churchill left England so quickly that he had no time to say goodbye to his brother and mother. Aboard the SS Rome, near Aden, he wrote of the conditions to his mother: “We are just in the hottest part of the Red Sea. The temperature is something like over 100 degrees and as it is damp heat it is equal to a great deal more. Several people who have been about 20 years in India tell me that they have never known such heat. It is like being in a vapour bath. The whole sea is steamy and there is not a breath of air – by night or day.” It was so hot, he said, that his views on a new novel he had just read (Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure) had melted.

While he waited in Bangalore, India, for word from Blood, he worked on his own novel, subsequently published as Savrola. When word did come, it was disappointing news: Blood was unable to get “his pals” appointed to his staff. He advised Churchill to come to the frontier as a war correspondent and, as soon as possible, he would have him appointed to the staff of the Malakand Field Force.

Churchill sent his brother the following comments on India: “Nothing can impress one with the size of this country so much as to take a journey….I asked how far my destination was. Two thousand and twenty seven miles. Nearly as far as across the Atlantic. It is a proud reflection that all this vast expanse of fertile, populous country is ruled and administered by Englishmen.” In a letter to his mother he reflected on the irony of risking his life in a profession which he soon intended to discard: soldiering. “I feel that the fact of having seen service with British troops while still a young man must give me more weight politically, must add to my claims to be listened to and may perhaps improve my prospects of gaining popularity with the country. Besides this, I think I am of an adventurous disposition and shall enjoy myself not so much in spite of as because of the risks I run.”

Upon arrival at the Malakand camp, he began writing a series of letters for the Daily Telegraph on the adventures of the Malakand Field Force. He told his mother not to worry about him. “A philosophical temperament should transcend all human weaknesses from fear or affection.”

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