for churchill, war did not mean forgoing comfort -- 4/16/19

Today's selection -- from Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard. Young Winston Churchill traveled with the British Army to South Africa for the Boer War as a news correspondent. Though he was serious about war, and had himself been a soldier, he was not going skimp on comfort. He was, after all, a descendent of the legendary General John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough:

"Churchill understood that the work of a war correspondent was among the most dangerous he could find, but although he was will­ing to risk his life in South Africa, he could not see any point in being uncomfortable while he was there. He had gone shopping for his wartime equipment not in army supply stores or back-alley bargain bins but on Bond Street, the most famous and expensive shopping district in London. Churchill had purchased what seemed to him to be the necessities for war. At the famous optical shop W. Callaghan & Co., he had chosen a compass set in bronze and a carefully crafted saddleback leather case with a pigskin lining, spending, or pledging to spend -- because it was a transaction between gentlemen, payment was to be delivered at some unspecified time in the future -- £3.15.6, approximately $500 in today's money. That bill, however, paled in comparison to his tally at Randolph Payne & Sons, where he had ordered a dizzying array of fine wines, spirits and liqueurs: six bottles each of an 1889 Vin d'Ay Sec, a light port, French vermouth and very old eau-de-vie landed 1866; eighteen bottles of St.-Émilion; another eighteen of ten-year-old scotch whisky and a dozen of Rose's cor­dial lime juice. The final order, which cost more than £27 (roughly $4,000 today), had been packed and delivered directly to the Dunot­tar Castle.

Winston Churchill

"Although he had little money to spare, Churchill would not even have considered traveling without his valet, Thomas Walden. Walden, who had once worked for Randolph Churchill and had enlisted in the army as a private, was to be Winston's soldier-servant, or batman, a term that derived from the French bât, or packsad­dle. More officers had their own batman to press their uniforms and deliver their orders to subordinates, but few had highly trained pro­fessional valets who had traveled the world with a single aristocratic family, as Walden had."



Candice Millard


Hero of the Empire


Anchor Books, a division of Random House


Copyright 2016 by Candice Millard


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