HOLIDAY TREATS FROM SIR JOHN COLVILLE
That Winston Churchill’s personal and private secretaries occasionally salvaged items discarded by “The Old Man” to keep as mementoes has long been known in Churchill circles. But Sir John Colville himself, Churchill’s wartime private secretary?
Sir John Rupert Colville (familiarly known as “Jock”) was Neville Chamberlain’s private secretary before going to work for Winston Churchill in 1940 as a holdover from Chamberlain’s Churchill-disdaining administration. That he quickly became one of Churchill’s admirers and, in time, friends, has always made him one of the most intriguing of Churchill associates. Colville kept a private diary that was published (almost to Colville’s own surprise) in 1985 as THE FRINGES OF POWER: 10 Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955. It documents in real time the evolution of Colville’s initial dismissiveness toward his boss, his growing, grudging respect as he watched Churchill struggle to save Great Britain from annihilation, his increasing appreciation and ultimate affection for Winston Churchill.
In 1941, Colville persuaded Churchill to allow him to join the RAF. In 1943 he returned and resumed his position as one of Churchill’s Joint Principal Private Secretaries. After Churchill’s 1945 electoral defeat, Colville served then-Princess Elizabeth as her Private Secretary, before rejoining Churchill in 1951 for his second term as PM.
So, John Colville was intimately in Churchill’s orbit throughout the most legendary and enthralling years of Churchill’s career. Now it emerges that, as he worked at Churchill’s side, he also preserved bits of what he was working on, objects with enormous resonance for us today, three of which we have acquired from his heirs. They appear in our new catalogue.
- A typed draft fragment for a Parliamentary speech on “World Disarmament” that Churchill would deliver in the House of Commons on March 14 1955. This is no more than an elaborately trimmed sheet of paper but a dramatic one laden with handwritten emendations, all in Churchill’s hand. To see them CLICK HERE.2. An envelope embossed: “The White House/Washington” covered with Winston Churchill’s ink handwritten notes, referencing: “Ike,” “U.S. Britain,” “Conferences,” “China,” and more. The envelope is in mint condition, with just a hint of a splatter that we like to think is Scotch. Churchill visited the White House in June 1954 intent on persuading “Ike” to summit with the Soviets and defuse the Cold War. “Ike” initially agreed, but ultimately refused. To see this envelope and a 1954 press photo of Churchill and “Ike” on the White House lawn, CLICK HERE..
3. A typed “Directive” on embossed “Prime Minister” letterhead initial-signed in ink: “WC.” The directive reads: “Statements affecting Cabinet proceedings and policy should not be made in relation to assertions in particular newspapers. If the great majority of the newspapers took up a matter of this character it would require special consideration. The proper course however is to await a Question in Parliament.” A penciled date of “10, 7, 53,” appears above. An inked notation in John Colville’s own hand below Churchill’s initial signature reads: “No. 10 so instructed Mr. Fife Clark and Sir N. Brook informed Lord Swinton and Sir Adeane. JRC.” Andrew Roberts examined all of these items during his visit to the store last week and was particularly struck by this Directive, which, he proposed, was related to Churchill’s June 1953 stroke that was kept a secret from all but Queen Elizabeth and a few political intimates. The PM’s day-to-day operations were left to John Colville and Churchill’s son-in-law, Christopher Soames, who managed matters, as Colville noted in his diary, “careful not to allow our own judgments to be given Prime Ministerial effect.”
Andrew Roberts believes this Directive may have been directed at keeping news of Churchill’s stroke out of the newspapers. You decide. Just CLICK HERE.
With our best holiday wishes for your health and safety, masked once again for Victory.