Whisky, cigars and champagne all before the day had barely even begun. These three vices were hallmarks of Churchill’s time as Prime Minister, so much so that Champagne producers Pol Roger marked his death in 1965 with a black border on the labels of all their bottles exported to the UK. And to this day, you can even toast his birthday (today, Nov 30) with their vintage Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
Even before he was PM, Churchill had a career as a successful politician – one of his notable achievements was the introduction of the minimum wage in 1908 in his Cabinet role as President of the Board of Trade. But it wasn’t all good – he was also one of those responsible for an early draft of the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 which mandated sterilisation of ‘the feeble-minded’. No matter what you think of his actions, there’s no denying that he was a fascinating character and speech-writer, delivering some of the most well-known speeches in wartime Britain, such as his famous ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech in June 1940.
If you want to retrace his steps, head over to the Churchill War Rooms in Westminster which have been left exactly as they were in 1945 at the end of the Second World War (minus the fug of smoky, boozy air – probably for the best). The Cabinet War Room is particularly worth a look, the blotting paper on the table not so fresh as when it was laid down after the last of 115 meetings of Churchill’s Cabinet. Keep an eye out for the deep fingernail scratches on the arm of the chair at the head of the table – understandably war was more than a little stressful for the PM. Shalinee Singh
For info, see Churchill War Rooms listing.