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Churchill Style: The Art of Being Winston Churchill

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.

Often he sailed on either the Queen Elizabeth or the Queen Mary. In 1949, he sailed on both – the Queen Elizabeth going, the Queen Mary returning – to and from the United States.

“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.

 “Built for the arts of peace and to link the Old World with the New, the ‘Queens’ challenged the fury of Hitlerism in the Battle of the Atlantic,” Churchill’s foreword began. “At a speed never before realized in war, they carried over a million to defend the liberties of civilization. Often whole divisions at a time were moved by each ship. Vital decisions depended upon their ability continuously to elude the enemy, and without their aid the day of final victory must unquestionably have been postponed. To the men who contributed to the success of our operations in the years of peril, and to those who brought these two great ships into existence, the world owes a debt that it will not be easy to…

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.

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