Winston Churchill’s life and legacy was one centerpiece of the trip I took with students in the past couple of weeks. Yesterday, I highlighted Dover Castle and its prominent role in Britain’s defense during WWII, along with a photo of Churchill emerging from the underground tunnels.
We also made two other Churchillian stops: Blenheim Palace and the Churchill War Rooms.
Churchill was born and raised in this modest home outside Oxford.
I know—my definition of “modest” needs some reworking.
Blenheim Palace befits its name. Can you imagine having your meals in this dining room?
Grand homes such as Blenheim usually included a private chapel, complete with a pulpit from where the little congregation of family and friends could hear sermons and get their spiritual nourishment.
The back yard wasn’t too shabby either:
Although Churchill grew up in luxury externally, sadly, he never got much affection from his parents. Yet he never ceased to try to please them and live up to the family name. His many exploits testify to an inner drive to accomplish great things.
His accomplishments came to a high point, of course, during WWII. In London, his role as prime minister and leader of the nation during the war are chronicled in the Churchill War Rooms.
I visited the War Rooms twenty years ago, but they are more extensive now with the addition of a vast museum, also housed in the underground bunker. I don’t recall having to wait in line back then, but this site now is a main attraction.
The War Rooms have been maintained exactly as they were during the war. The Cabinet Room, as an example, seems poised to conduct a meeting of Churchill’s top government officials:
Even Churchill’s office, which included a bed for overnight stays, stands ready for action:
The Transatlantic Telephone Room allowed Churchill to speak quickly and directly with Franklin Roosevelt.
If you look carefully, you might be able to see Churchill on a call.
The museum was a surprise for me since it didn’t exist the last time I visited. It covers all of Churchill’s life and influence. One could spend a few hours just perusing the surface of all it contains.
As you stand in certain places, Churchill’s voice rings out above you, offering excerpts from his most famous speeches and providing the historical context for each one.
Churchill crafted each speech with the utmost care. Each word and phrase was finely tuned for the greatest effect. That wordsmithing carried over to some of his most well-known quips as well. As I wandered through the museum, I found a number of quotes that I loved. As a historian myself, I particularly enjoyed this one:
Sometimes, students come to my office and look at the books in my bookcases and ask me if I have read them all. I respond that I have read most of them, but that a good number are for reference. I wonder what those students would think if they could then see the five additional bookcases in my small study at home.
Churchill understood this love for books, and he apparently also understood how limited our time is to be able to absorb them all. That’s why this quote also stood out to me:
I’ll offer this one final Churchill quip:
I sincerely hope he was indeed ready to meet his Maker. Otherwise, all the accomplishments in the world will never make up for an eternity separated from the One for whom we should be doing everything.
Another theme on this trip was how cathedrals sought to reveal the glory of God. That will be the subject of tomorrow’s post.