At noon on February 27, 1919, Churchill was among the large congregation that attended the royal wedding of Princess Patricia of Connaught to Commander Alexander Ramsay, a Royal Naval officer. Princess Patricia was the daughter of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The wedding was held at Westminster Abbey and attended by King George and Queen Mary. Ramsay continued his naval career after his marriage and was Fifth Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Air Service when Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty at the start of the Second World War. Churchill, however, quickly replaced Ramsay with another admiral as he believed a new start was needed with the Fleet Air Arm. Later in the day on February 27th Churchill, as Secretary of State for War and Air in Lloyd-George’s government, answered questions in the House of Commons including on the removal of censorship on commercial telegrams, the upcoming Royal Review at Hyde Park, and the Imperial War Graves Commission. He also introduced a Bill for first reading in the commons that dealt with the maintenance of such forces of the army, navy, and air force as may be needed to meet any “exigencies” that may arise over the next year.
The 2015 Winston Churchill Symposium will be held on Saturday, March 14 at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. The one-day conference will include presentations by Graham Clews (Churchill’s Dilemma: The Real Story Behind the Origins of the 1915 Dardanelles Campaign), Lynne Olson (Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941), Neill Lochery (Churchill versus the (Not So) Neutrals of WWII), and Nigel Hamilton (From Triumph to Tragedy: March – July 1945). More information on the symposium is available at the National World War II Museum web site.
In a decidedly odd news story, a vial of the blood of Winston Churchill is to be sold by an auction house. The blood sample was apparently taken from the former prime minister in 1962 during his treatment for an injured hip at the Middlesex Hospital in London. A student nurse at the hospital, Patricia Fitzgibbon, received permission to keep the vial which is now up for sale as a souvenir. The auction is to be held in March. Reports on the story are available at the New York Times and Guardian.
On Monday February 18, 1901, Winston Churchill made his maiden speech in the House of Commons. He had been narrowly elected to parliament as a Conservative for the constituency of Oldham in October 1900 and had taken his seat in the chamber four days earlier. His mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, and four of his aunts were in the Ladies Gallery when Churchill rose to speak at 10:30 that evening from the “corner seat of the second bench above the gangway immediately behind the Ministerial Front Bench.” He spoke right after David Lloyd-George had made a bitter speech attacking the British conduct of the ongoing war in South Africa. In opening his first speech to parliament, in which he too would discuss South Africa, Churchill took note of Lloyd-George’s speech. He compared the bitter tone of the speech with the moderate amendment that Lloyd-George had offered and remarked “it might perhaps have been better, upon the whole, if the hon. Member, instead of making his speech without moving his Amendment, had moved his Amendment without making his speech.” Churchill then discussed ending the war in South Africa and a suitable post-war government, but not without noting that “If I were a Boer fighting in the field—and if I were a Boer I hope I should be fighting in the field.” The comment prompted Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, to remark, “That’s the way to throw away seats.” Churchill’s maiden speech was considered a success and received favourable comment in the newspapers. The full text of the speech can be found online.
Churchill’s association with horse racing as an owner and breeder in his later years is detailed in an interesting article in the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary. The 2,000 word piece by Sean Magee describes how Churchill, with the encouragement of his son-in-law Christopher Soames, bought his first race horse in 1949 when he was already 74 years old. Churchill owned several horses over the next years, including Cybarine, High Hat, Vienna, and Le Pretendant. The most successful horse he had, however, was Colonist II, the first horse he had bought. As the article indicates, while Churchill entirely enjoyed owning a racing stable the endeavor always puzzled his wife Clementine. In 1950 she wrote that “I do think this is a queer new facet in Winston’s variegated life. Before he bought the horse (I can’t think why) he had hardly been on a racecourse in his life. I must say I don’t find it madly amusing.” The article is available here.
The recently published autumn 2014 issue of The Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill is largely dedicated to the life and career of Sir Martin Gilbert, the renowned Churchill historian. Articles on Gilbert are contributed by, among others, Ronald Cohen, Allen Packwood, Andrew Roberts, Max Hastings, Richard Langworth, and Paul Addison. Two former British prime ministers, John Major and Gordon Brown, also provide personal tributes. Additionally, the autumn issue includes the articles “Winston Churchill and Ditchley Park,” The Making of a Defence Minister,” and “Defeat and Victory: Churchill, Coronel and the Falkland Islands.” The journal can be found here.
Martin Gilbert, the preeminent Churchill scholar as well as a leading historian of the Holocaust, died at the age of 78 on February 3rd in London. In 1962 he was engaged as a research assistant by Randolph Churchill in the writing of the official biography of his father. Randolph, however, died in 1968 after completing the first two volumes and Gilbert took over as the official biographer. Over the next two decades Gilbert researched and wrote the six magisterial volumes that covered Churchill’s life from 1914 to 1965. As the Daily Telegraph notes in its obituary, Gilbert’s Churchill canon consisted of “six narrative volumes, 11 companion books of source material, a 981-page popular precis and 13 spin-offs.” Entirely indefatigable Gilbert wrote dozens of more books beyond Churchill. These included volumes on Israel, Jerusalem, the Holocaust, and four biographies. A holder of several professorships and fellowships, Gilbert was also a member of Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. Obituaries of Martin Gilbert are available from the BBC, Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, and the Jerusalem Post.