Sir Winston Churchill is the greatest British Prime Minister who ever lived. He had his faults, he made some terrible decisions, he could behave romantically, even childishly, sometimes. But it was his clarity of vision, doggedness and unbounded energy that led this country to victory against the Nazi doctrine in the Second World War. Unlike most of our so-called leaders, Churchill created public opinion, rather than follow it. The expression “cometh the hour, cometh the man” must have been coined in readiness for him.
Dear Sir Winston
You deserve a thank you so huge that it’s almost impossible to do it justice with my limited intellectual resource and vocabulary. If it wasn’t for you – and I think this shows just how incredible your achievements and legacy are – I probably wouldn’t even be free to sit and create this website where I want, when and how I want. You stood strong and largely alone against Hitler and the Nazi machine and the tide of appeasement that swept the Nation, like a lily-livered cancer, in the late 1930s. You led our country in a war where victory was against the odds but, at the same time, absolutely essential.
I would also like to thank you for the rich library of quotations you have left behind. From the awe-inspiringly famous words of 1940:
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
To your wicked wit of 1929 where, during an election speech in a church hall in Epping, a woman challenged your alcohol consumption claiming that, during your lifetime, you had consumed enough alcohol to fill the hall to a point some half-way up the walls. You stared at her and the spot she was indicating, then glanced upwards before announcing:
“So little time, so much to do”
I want to thank you for the Churchill Model, the approach you used to help make your own world-changing decisions and which I adopted to make one of rather lesser global significance, to relocate my family from Brighton to Norfolk in 1999 – and which I’ve used to assist me in every potentially life-changing decision since. The model is simplicity itself, but ensures action is based on tangibles, not emotions; grab a blank sheet of paper, turn it to landscape and divide it in to two columns, one labelled +, the other -. Then simply write down all the honest benefits and all the honest drawbacks. The column with the most entries makes the call.
This year, I have visited your wonderful home of Chartwell. I was privileged and moved to stand in your study, on the very wooden floor where, late in to the evenings and gratified by food and alcohol – “I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me” – you’d pace up and down and bark out your words to your secretaries. I have seen the beautiful wooden box where your secreted the completed manuscripts and the huge rug from which, annoyed with tripping on them, you cut the tassels on your hands and knees.
You were a true political and leadership icon and therefore – like most of my heroes – you could be difficult. But, as you perfectly observed:
“Great and good are seldom the same man”
Thank you, Sir Winston, for giving me – and all of us who now live in this green and pleasant land – our freedom. I only had the privilege of sharing the same country and air with you for four years, but I can’t explain what a privilege that was.
Lastly, my trip to Chartwell – and particularly the time I spent standing in your study – was the impetus for me to start to create this website. I think you’d like that.