Friday, March 15, 2013

SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL'S CATS

You've probably heard of Sir Winston Churchill because he was a famous British person who was the Prime Minister during World War II.  What you may not know about him was that he liked cats.  He had at least one dog, but mostly he had cats.  In my opinion, he should have had more dogs and fewer cats, but I did not get a chance to tell Mr. Churchill my opinion because he died before I was born.



The country home where the Churchills lived was called Chartwell.  Several cats lived there during the years, and one of them was named Mickey.  He was a big tabby cat.  Another one was Tango, who was a marmalade color.

Sir John Colville, who was the Prime Minister's principal secretary, told a story about having lunch with his boss and Tango on June 3, 1941.  At that time, a lot of things were going wrong with the war, and here's how he described the meal:

I had lunch with the P.M. and the Yellow Cat, which sat in a chair on his right-hand side and attracted most of his attention.  He was meditating deeply on the Middle East, where he is intent on reorganizing the rearward services, and on Lord Beaverbrook who is proving particularly troublesome....While he brooded on these matters, he kept up a running conversation with the cat, cleaning its eyes with his napkin, offering it mutton and expressing regret that it could not have cream in war-time.


The best-known cat that Mr. Churchill had during the war was a big gray cat named Nelson.  An American war correspondent, Quentin Reynolds, reported that the Prime Minister told people at a dinner party that "Nelson is the bravest cat I ever knew.  I once saw him chase a huge dog out of the Admiralty.  I decided to adopt him and name him after our great Admiral...."  During this same dinner, Mr. Churchill secretly gave pieces of salmon to Nelson whenever Mrs. Churchill wasn't looking.


In August, 1941, Prime Minister Churchill met President Roosevelt on the HMS Prince of Wales for an important war meeting.  Mr. Churchill saw the ship's cat, Blackie, and he bent down to pet him.  After that, the crew changed Blackie's name to Churchill, and made him the official mascot of the ship.  Later in the year, the ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft off Malaya.  Many sailors died, but Churchill the cat managed to make it to Singapore with the survivors.  Then when it was time for the men to evacuate Singapore, Churchill could not be found because he was probably doing catlike things such as exploring or hunting.  So the crew had to leave him behind, which made them very sad.

Sir Winston especially loved kittens.  One day when the Churchills were at Chartwell, a neighbor brought over a basket with five white kittens.  Each one had a red ribbon around its neck.  She was hoping that Sir Winston would pick one of the kittens to keep, but his secretary, Grace Hamblin, thought there were already too many cats in the house.  She took the basket up to the bedroom, and she said to her boss, "Now you are not to have these, they are just here for a visit."

In about an hour, he called her back, and she found kittens everywhere, climbing all over the furniture and tearing up the newspapers and getting into all kinds of mischief.  Mr. Churchill told her, "Take these kittens away, before I fall in love."

With Rufus the poodle at Chartwell Manor
Photo by Hans Wild

When Sir Winston had his 88th birthday in November 1962, Sir John "Jock" Colville gave him a ginger cat with a white chest and paws.  The cat was named Jock, and soon got to be a favorite of Mr. Churchill.  After Mr. Churchill died on January 24, 1965, at the age of 90, the National Trust took over Chartwell.  The family asked that there would always be a marmalade cat named Jock living there.

Jock V

The latest Jock came to live at Chartwell in November of 2010.  He is Jock V, a rescue kitten who was 19 weeks old when he was adopted by Alice Martin, the collections manager at Chartwell.  He lives in the apartment at the top of the house, and he is pampered by the office staff.  Ms. Martin says that Jock V likes water and "jumps into the sink at every opportunity."  The public gets to see Jock when Chartwell is open for tours.





8 comments:

  1. Probably one of my shorter comments; I like Winston Churchill!
    Love, AP

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    1. Here's my short reply: Me, too!
      Love, Piper

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  2. I love cats and I just found out Churchill was a cat lover...Few years ago, I visited Chartwell but was unaware about Jock's existance...hope they keep looking after all Jock's cats!

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    1. I am sorry you did not get to see Jock when you were at Chartwell. I guess sometimes he takes a break from his greeter-of-guests duties and has a little catnap. I'm sure the people there will keep looking after all the generations of Jocks.

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    2. hahaha...Yeah, I guess Jock is a very famous cat ;)

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  3. A lot of great men love cats, myself included.

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    1. Thank you for your modest comment! :-)

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  4. Any man who cares for cats has at least one redeeming feature.

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