Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was undoubtedly one of the greatest leaders of the Twentieth Century. Like most people, Churchill was not without faults or critics, but there is no doubt that Churchill was an outstanding man for his time: a brilliant orator, exceptionally talented writer and historian, passionate politician and inspirational war leader. The war generation of Britain and the Commonwealth revered him with gratitude and deep emotion as a hero and saviour.
My first memory of Sir Winston was as an inquisitive five year old. I was in the newsagency with my grandfather and noticed a large colour portrait of an old man on the front page of the special edition of a magazine. I didn’t really know who he was or what he had done, but I was certainly aware enough to understand that a very great and important man had just died. It was January 1965.
My next experience of Sir Winston was as a fourteen year old. My step-father had served with distinction in the Australian Army in New Guinea in World War 2 and was a great fan of Churchill. He fervently believed that it was Churchill’s bull-dog determination and steadfast leadership that saved the Allies from defeat.
Apart from his admiration for Churchill as a war leader, my step-father had read practically everything Churchill had ever written and owned many sets of beautiful, hard-cover books. I was just developing an interest in history and spent much of my time escaping into the romantic historical novels of Jean Plaidy, particularly the lives of the Tudors. I remember my step-father saying, ‘If you want to read real history written by the best writer in the English language, then read Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples’. To a fourteen-year-old, this seemed like a formidable challenge; after all, Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples was in four thick volumes.
I painstakingly made notes about the lives of the kings and queens of England, from William the Conqueror, (whose corpulent body was so badly decomposed by the time it was placed in Westminster Abbey that it exploded) to the long suffering Queen Anne, who endured seventeen miscarriages. My poor history teacher became so frustrated by my enthusiastic interjections with Churchillian detail during her lessons that she eventually asked me to teach the class. Much to the relief of my teacher, and no doubt my fellow students, I ran out steam by the time I reached the four Georges.
So, as you can see Sir Winston was also responsible in part for my love of history and my choice at age fourteen to become a history teacher.
Now, as I am only able to undertake my overseas research due to a Churchill Fellowship, I thought it would be a fitting homage to visit a number of Churchill related places in my travels and I have attached a number of photographs from England and Paris. It’s interesting to see that Churchill has received a special place of honour in Paris with a street named after him and a commemorative statue, so it’s not just the British but the French who are grateful to Churchill for his valiant leadership during World War 2.