Sailing with Cunard in the Churchill Style
by Barry Singer
In November 1895, weeks before his twenty-first birthday, Winston Churchill sailed for the first time to New York aboard the Cunard Royal Mail Steamship Etruria.
He did not especially enjoy himself. “I do not contemplate ever taking a sea voyage for pleasure,” he wrote to his mother from the ship. “I shall always look upon journeys by sea as necessary evils which have to be undergone in the carrying out of some definite plan.”
Churchill did, however, take a vast number of ocean voyages over the course of his long life – most of them on Cunard White Star Line ships. Generally speaking, he enjoyed himself immensely.
“I cannot thank you sufficiently for all the kindness and courtesy with which Cunard’s have treated me on board ‘the Queens,’” he wrote to Cunard’s Director, upon his return. “…It is now nearly 57 years since I first cruised the Atlantic in the 7000-ton Etruria, and came back in the Lucania, which is a long time as human lives go.”
In March 1946, Churchill sailed on the Queen Elizabeth to the United States to deliver what would come to be known as his “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri. During the course of that voyage he agreed, at Cunard’s request, to write a foreword for a projected war history of “the two Queens” that Cunard planned to publish.
Churchill paused here to change one word in his final draft – the last word. Instead of “the world owes a debt that it will not be easy to repay,” Churchill rewrote his conclusion to read: “the world owes a debt that it will not be easy to measure.”
I like that word: measure. It is precisely what I have tried to accomplish with Churchill Style; to measure Winston Churchill – not in terms of the debt we all owe him as a historical figure – but rather to measure the man as a man, through the singular, artful style with which he lived his life. The Churchill style.