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On the last day of 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was in Ottawa on a three-day visit to the Canadian capital during a break from the Washington conference with President Franklin Roosevelt. That morning he met with 200 reporters at Rideau Hall where he had been staying while in the city. Dressed in a dapper fashion, with a “greyish suit with a thin stripe, a white shirt and collar with his famous blue dotted bow tie, a white handkerchief in his breast pocket, and a watch chain of heavy links crossed his vest from pocket to pocket,” Churchill answered questions about all theatres of the war. Regarding the possible peace feelers from the enemy, he said there had not been any but added, “I really think they must be hard pressed for materials of all kinds, and would not want to waste the paper and ink.” A battery of photographers constantly took his picture throughout the press conference prompting Churchill to comment later to Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, “When I am gone there will be plenty of pictures to have for posterity to know what I looked like.”

Later Churchill traveled to No. 2 Service Flying Training School at Uplands to make an inspection tour during which he “bounded about like a schoolboy on holiday” and then went on to the residence of British High Commissioner Malcolm Macdonald for a luncheon. With his visit to Ottawa concluded, he returned to Rideau Hall to say good-bye to Lord Athlone and Princess Alice, the Governor-General and his wife. Although his departure had been kept secret, Union Station was quickly packed with Ottawa residents as Churchill arrived to board his train for the United States. As his train pulled away from the platform the British prime minister stood at the railing of his car and waved good-bye.

By New Year’s the train was pulling out of Brattleboro, Vermont and Churchill called his staff, reporters, and railroad porters to the dining car to mark the occasion. He made a toast, “Here’s to 1942, here’s to a year of toil—a year of struggle and peril, and a long step forward towards victory. May we all come through safe and with honour.” Everyone then sang “Auld Lang Syne” and “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” as Churchill retired. An article by the author of this blog on Churchill’s Ottawa visit, “Taking Ottawa by Storm: Churchill in Canada, December 29-31, 1941,” was published in The Churchillian (Autumn 2014). The Churchillian is available here.

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