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On Monday, November 15, 2021, Winston Churchill’s niece, Clarissa Eden, the Countess of Avon, died at the age of 101.

The Times published an obituary. What a fascinating life she led.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

A life well lived

Anne Clarissa Spencer-Churchill was born in London on June 28, 1920. She was the daughter of Jack Spencer-Churchill, Winston Churchill’s younger brother, and grand-daughter of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Randolph Churchill. Her mother was Lady Gwendoline (“Goonie”) Bertie, a daughter of the 7th Earl of Abingdon. According to The Times, the Earl’s family thought that Lady Gwendoline married beneath herself, because Jack, even though he was a Major from the Great War, earned his living as a stockbroker, something that true gentlemen did not do in that era.

Perhaps they were not wrong. Money was tight, so much so that Jack’s family lived with Winston’s in South Kensington, overlooking the Natural History Museum.

Childhood holidays were spent at Blenheim itself and later at Churchill’s home, Chartwell in Kent. They also included visits to Normandy where family friend Consuelo Vanderbilt, formerly Duchess of Marlborough, lived.

Clarissa had two older brothers. Despite her mother’s devoted attention to her, she grew up to be independently minded. She left a fashionable Essex boarding school, Downham, because she felt she did not fit in with the other girls.

At the age of 16, her family sent her to Paris to study art. This was the beginning of her adulthood and sent the tone for her life over the next several years:

There she was taken up by the younger members of the embassy staff, including Fitzroy Maclean. At 17, she had her first love affair, visited nightclubs run by White Russians and saw Josephine Baker dance clad only in a circlet of bananas. It was no surprise that when she returned to London she found her contemporaries to be lacking in sophistication. In imitation of Marlene Dietrich, she had a man’s suit made. Deborah Mitford, her fellow debutante, recalled the blue-eyed Clarissa as having “a whiff of Garbo” about her.

By the time the Second World War broke out, Clarissa had moved from London to Oxford, attracting the attention of men:

There she unofficially attended philosophy lectures and persuaded AJ Ayer to give her tutorials. “She was a don’s delight,” Lady Antonia Fraser recalled. Her circle included Lord David Cecil and Isaiah Berlin, who told her how as a small boy in Russia he had buried his mother’s pearls in the snow to save them from the Bolsheviks.

She inspired a fictional character called Emmeline:

The composer and writer Lord Berners, a noted wit — a notice at the top of a folly on his estate read: “Members of the public commit suicide here at their own risk” — left a portrait of her as the heroine of his novel Far From the Madding War.

Emmeline, who has “hair reminiscent of a cornfield at daybreak”, looks like “a nymph in one of the less licentious paintings of Fragonard”. She is not the sort of girl to whom one makes improper suggestions without encouragement. Reflecting on their acquaintance at the time, and on his more humble origins, the historian Raymond Carr noted: “I got no encouragement.”

The Times has a photo of her as a young woman, stately looking with fine, yet angular, features, so characteristic of the British upper class.

Clarissa’s life as a young adult, The Times says, resembled that of Anthony Powell’s series of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time. I’ve read all of them and recommend them to anyone interested in British society. What held true then still holds true today.

Anthony Powell became one of her friends along with many others in the arts. There were also two spies, who came to be infamous:

Other names of the era who flow through her memoir include Cyril Connolly, Cecil Beaton, Greta Garbo, Orson Welles, Peter Brook, Lucian Freud, John Pope-Hennessy, Emerald Cunard, Nancy Mitford, Moura Budberg, the Marchesa Casati and Donald Maclean, the spy, who danced with her.

She worked with Guy Burgess at the Ministry of Information after a spell decoding messages at the Foreign Office.

Working for the Government during the war was not without its glamour:

Clarissa was at the time living on the top floor of the Dorchester hotel in central London, which had cheap rates during the Blitz; in the next room was Churchill’s daughter-in-law, Pamela. When she later got a flat, she shared it briefly with the writer Elizabeth Bowen after she had been bombed out of hers. And when she made parts for submarines, she found herself on the production line next to Lillie Langtry’s daughter.

After the war ended, Clarissa went to work for film maker Alexander Korda, who made the iconic movie The Third Man:

Clarissa Churchill worked as a writer for Vogue and in the publicity department of Korda Films, then producing The Third Man. Subsequently, she joined a magazine owned by George Weidenfeld, Contact, persuading Elizabeth David, then little known, to contribute recipes to it.

Her life changed forever when she met Conservative politician Anthony Eden, remembered for the Suez Crisis of 1956.

During the war, he was the Secretary of State for the Foreign Office from 1940 to 1945. The two did not meet until after the war, however.

Eden’s first marriage had collapsed. He was single when they made each other’s acquaintance:

Despite their close relations to Churchill, the pair had not met properly until soon after the war. Eden was living as a bachelor, his first wife, Beatrice, finally having left their troubled marriage after the death in 1945 in Burma of their elder son, an RAF pilot.

They had a common interest — art:

“Like many Englishmen, he hadn’t known intimacy,” Clarissa observed of the Eton-educated Eden, whose mother had been beautiful but selfish. They brought happiness to each other, sharing a love of art and, arguably, a political outlook. “I’m not really a Conservative,” he told her, “I’m an old-fashioned Liberal.” A more certain influence was that “he offered me a taste of another side of life”, far removed from the more bohemian circles in which she moved.

Eden was 23 years older than his girlfriend. Some of Clarissa’s admirers disapproved of the relationship, especially when it resulted in marriage:

Indeed, their engagement in 1952 had astonished their two very different sets of friends

… betraying their lack of worldliness, both were surprised by the excitement that their wedding generated. The crowds who gathered outside the register office at Caxton Hall in Westminster were almost as large as those for Elizabeth Taylor’s marriage there a few months earlier. The reaction of others, however, was less friendly.

Evelyn Waugh, who had been in love with Clarissa, wrote her an intemperate letter (after lunch at White’s) about the state of her soul — she had been raised a Roman Catholic. Duff Cooper, another disappointed admirer of hers, confided to his diary his view that Anthony Eden had no friends and his only interest was in becoming the Tories’ leader.

Clarissa’s cousin Randolph Churchill, who in the press had repeatedly attacked Eden, his father’s political heir, said at the wedding reception that he would give her two years to “knock him into shape” before recommencing his criticisms. He kept his word.

Eden’s health was poor. Shortly after he and Clarissa married, he had a serious problem with his gall bladder, which took some time to resolve. He nearly died:

Stomach pains that he had had for some time were, at Clarissa’s prompting, found to require an operation in 1953 on his gall bladder. When this was botched, it necessitated two more, the last in America and with Eden close to death.

A bad health experience so soon after marriage drives some couples apart. Not so with the Edens, who became ever closer. Clarissa’s infertility was the next blow. Yet again, their love grew for each other to the extent that Clarissa stopped seeing many of the friends she made as a young adult during this period:

He recovered but the experience of nursing him, Clarissa recalled, “bound us together in a situation of emotional dependence”. It perhaps promoted a siege mentality in both of them, and it was a further sadness that Clarissa was unable to have children after a miscarriage in 1954. She admitted that she had never had women friends with whom she exchanged confidences. After her marriage, she lost touch with her other friends, dismissed by her husband as “café society”.

The couple spent their spare time alone with each other. By now, Eden’s star was in the ascendant; he was a popular Foreign Secretary. He was irked that his rival, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, did not stand aside to allow him to lead the Conservative Party and enter No. 10:

Clarissa emphasised her disinclination to cultivate strategic friendships by retreating alone with her husband as often as possible to her cottage, Rose Bower, near Salisbury. These were halcyon days for Anthony Eden as foreign secretary. His diplomacy saved Europe’s fledgling defence pact and brought peace to Indo-China, and in 1954 he was made a Garter knight. Yet he became increasingly irked by Churchill’s disinclination to step aside for him — a dozen times a date was set and then revoked — with Clarissa feeling bound to side with her husband against her uncle. The couple were not mollified by the gift of Dorneywood in Buckinghamshire as an official residence, arriving to find its late owner’s much-used hairbrushes still on their dressing table.

A general election took place in 1955. Anthony Eden finally became Prime Minister. The Edens were Britain’s most sought-after couple outside of the Queen and Prince Philip:

When in May 1955 she walked into Downing Street with her husband Anthony, the newly elected prime minister, the wind could not have stood fairer for them. After the young Queen and Prince Philip, they were the most glamorous and powerful couple in the land.

Lady Eden was only 34, her youth and good looks a refreshing contrast to the exhaustion exuded by the previous premier, her octogenarian uncle Sir Winston Churchill. Sir Anthony Eden was 23 years older than his wife yet still handsome, a natural performer in the new age of television, and genuinely popular. Foreign secretary during the war years and since 1950, he had just become the first leader of a government in a century to increase its majority.

The UK does not have a position of ‘first lady’. That said, some wives of prime ministers do undertake improvements in No. 10 Downing Street. Mrs Eden was one of them, although her first goal of refurbishment was thwarted by the shortage of government funds post-war. She settled on the catering instead:

After moving in, she planned a refurbishment that would have restored much of the original interior, but this fell victim to cutbacks. She had more success with the bland official catering. At one dinner she heard John Foster Dulles, the US secretary of state, bet a fellow guest that he could predict exactly what each course would be. That he had to pay out showed the potential strengths of the team that she and Eden made.

Anthony Eden had one immediate drawback, which was his relationship with the press. Churchill knew how to feed reporters stories. His successor did not.

This might have influenced press coverage of the Suez crisis in 1956, which ended his premiership:

This lack of support in the press may not have influenced Anthony Eden’s thinking when in July 1956 President Nasser of Egypt abruptly nationalised the Suez Canal, hitherto owned by Britain and France. But it meant there was less sympathy when, come November, Eden’s response misfired. After a secret agreement with France, British troops were sent to regain control of the canal on the pretext of halting fighting between Egypt and the other conspirator, Israel. Yet Eden was forced to withdraw humiliated when the Americans, describing Britain’s actions as colonial, threatened to impose oil sanctions and began to sell sterling.

Eden’s policy had sharply divided public opinion and Lady Eden was curious enough to attend a rally in Trafalgar Square against the invasion, although she walked away after being recognised. She herself placed much of the blame on Harold Macmillan, then foreign secretary. He had told Eden that President Eisenhower would not demur at an attempt to oust Nasser, and she thought that he had then exaggerated the gravity of the measures announced by Washington.

It was Macmillan who gained the prime ministership when in December 1956 Eden’s health gave way under the strain.

After leaving Downing Street, the Edens travelled to Jamaica and New Zealand for his health purposes:

He tried first to remedy it with a stay of three weeks at Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica, Fleming’s wife, Ann, being a friend of Lady Eden’s. When the break failed to improve matters, and with support for him failing in the cabinet and the Conservative Party, he resigned on January 10. He and Lady Eden then sailed for New Zealand. Over the horizon with them disappeared Britain’s remaining pretensions to be a world power, and the tradition of reposing trust in the ruling class; among the Edens’ stewards aboard the Rangitata was a young trades union activist named [future Labour MP] John Prescott.

Upon their return to England, the Edens settled in Wiltshire. Clarissa devoted herself to gardening. Her husband bred pedigree Hereford cattle.

In 1961, the former Prime Minister became the 1st Earl of Avon. His wife became Countess of Avon, or Lady Avon.

The Earl died in 1977 and his surviving son from his first marriage, Nicholas Eden, who was working in Margaret Thatcher’s government at the time, became the 2nd Earl of Avon. Nicholas died of AIDS in 1985 and, as there was no heir, the title of Earl of Avon died with him.

After her husband’s death, Lady Avon divided her time between Oxfordshire and London. She was careful to preserve her husband’s memory and guarded about guests referring to the Suez Crisis:

All the while she continued to guard her husband’s memory with what her acquaintances regarded as characteristic vigour and her friends as her essential integrity.

At one lunch party when a guest referred in embarrassed and halting tones to “the events of 1956”, she said firmly: “We call it Suez at this end of the table.”

On November 16, Conservative History posted photos of Lady Avon and one of Greta Garbo. Lady Avon had captioned each one (click on the image to see them in full):

Final interview

In 2018, when Lady Avon was 98, she gave her final interview to Spear’s, a financial investment magazine.

The magazine’s then-editor Alec Marsh met with the Countess in her Bryanston Square home in Marylebone, central London:

Three tall windows overlook the square, and the sage-green walls of what she calls a ‘salon’ are coated with beautiful artworks, including one painting by the French cubist Marie Laurencin that catches my eye. ‘It’s a painting that my husband liked,’ Lady Avon explains. ‘He had a very good eye. He was always buying paintings.’ Was that something he had in common with Churchill? ‘My uncle didn’t have a good eye,’ she chuckles genially. ‘He did painting; they were quite nice. But he wasn’t an aesthete, but my husband certainly was.’

That year, Churchill was the most popular Briton. A film of his life as Prime Minister during the Second World War, Darkest Hour, was playing in the cinemas:

Like millions of others, she has seen Darkest Hour and was enthralled by it – including Gary Oldman’s portrayal of her uncle. Would Churchill, I ask, be surprised by the public adoration being heaped upon him today, more than seven decades after the moment of his greatest triumph? ‘I don’t think so,’ she says shrewdly, ‘because by the end of his life he was very great, wasn’t he? It would be very difficult not to realise that he would be remembered.’ Would he be pleased about it? ‘Yes he would, of course.’ She smiles. ‘Naturally.’

Alec Marsh asked what her impressions of her uncle were. Before he became Prime Minister during the war, he had largely failed at several points in his career:

We all think we know something of her uncle, but how does she describe him? ‘That’s very tricky,’ she starts, ‘because I always knew him as a great man who hadn’t been appreciated. Most of my [early] life he was a failure. He was out of a job, out of work and not right in anything he believed in. He was in exile, so to speak. Going to Chartwell [the Churchills’ home in Kent] before the war was going to a place in exile – a place where people were not doing anything. It was all rather frustrating and sad.’

She described her frequent visits to see her uncle when he was PM and she was working in the Foreign Office decoding documents:

‘There was always a crisis, a tension, but one knew that that’s what he lived on; the fuel that got him going. Which it did with any good politician,’ she adds, noting that the same was true for her husband. Did Churchill wear the pressure with equanimity? ‘Oh yes. Of course,’ she insists, as though nothing else would be possible. ‘Certainly.’ How did he cope? ‘I don’t know. But he had always done it.’ Did he drink too much? ‘No, not more than most men,’ she fires back.

I ask about her wartime visits to Chartwell: ‘I didn’t particularly like it, but it was interesting always because Winston was so interesting,’ she recalls. ‘One always wanted to know what he was thinking and doing.’ Whatever the house itself lacked in aesthetic quality (‘Have you ever seen it?’ she asks), its host more than made up for its architectural shortcomings. ‘It was just him,’ Avon states emphatically. ‘One went and there was him and nothing else. They had the lunch or whatever it was, and he would talk and one would listen; that was the important part.

‘But he was not interested in what anybody else had to say,’ Avon recalls, laughing fondly. That said, she insists that he was ‘very polite’. ‘If somebody famous was at lunch he would listen to them, but on the whole he didn’t pay any attention to anybody.’

Was he entertaining company, I ask; funny? ‘He was certainly witty…’ And somewhat terrifying at times? ‘Not in the least, no. But,’ she breaks into laughter, ‘I could see he was terrifying, but not to me, no.’ Avon also recalls that he was ‘very conscious about things like nieces and nephews’.

Marsh asked what her abiding memories of her uncle were:

All these years on, how does she remember him? ‘He was exceptional, certainly,’ she punctuates this with a frank chuckle. ‘I think I realised he was very great in spite of the fact that everyone kept telling one that he was.’ She raises her eyebrows. ‘I did realise that he was exceptional. You couldn’t not.’ The greatest prime minister of the twentieth century? ‘Who was greater?’ she answers.

Then he ventured into present-day issues:

What does she think Winston would make of modern Britain? Lady Avon looks over towards the tall windows momentarily. ‘Not much,’ she chirps. ‘I don’t know. He was very, very old-fashioned in his approach to life.’ That comment sits a moment; the quiet of the square seeps into the salon.

Where would Churchill be on Brexit, I ask? ‘I think he would probably not [be] very much for staying in Europe,’ she announces after some consideration. ‘But he was a good politician,’ she adds, ‘so I don’t know what he would have said.’ Which is rather a good answer when you think about it.

Then questions turned towards her late husband and the Suez Crisis:

I wonder how he saw it all; was he proud of his career?

‘I suppose so,’ she replies doubtfully. ‘Absolutely.’ Does she think people have the wrong sense of Suez – that it was a mistake? There’s a long pause. ‘A mistake because it took place at all?’ she asks. ‘I don’t know,’ she states at last. (At the time she famously said that she ‘felt as if the Suez Canal was flowing through my drawing room’.) I wonder if memories of this crisis have fallen prey to time, as she explains: ‘I’m not good at politics, I’m afraid.’ I’m still not sure as the silence of Bryanston Square returns.

How would Eden have liked to be remembered? ‘You mean as a success or failure?’ she responds. ‘Certainly [he] was a success at the beginning,’ she says, referring to his three spells as foreign secretary – covering ten years between 1935 and 1955 – before the disappointing period of highest office. ‘At the end, I suppose not. I never thought about it,’ she adds absently. She reaches forward to the plate and nudges a biscuit towards me. ‘Have that one,’ she says.

While being photographed for the article, she asked Marsh about his tie. So many British ties represent private club membership and other associations:

‘What does your tie represent?’ asks Lady Avon, looking over. It’s decorative, I say. ‘That’s disappointing. Right,’ she chirps, addressing Greg. ‘Where am I looking?’

May Lady Avon rest in peace.

Remembrance Sunday in Britain saw a return to normal.

In 2020, the main walk past at the Cenotaph in London was depressingly sparse because of coronavirus restrictions.

Fortunately, this year, England saw a return to normal. Between 9,000 (the BBC’s estimate) and 10,000 (GB News’s) people participated at the Cenotaph.

Thousands of others gathered in their own towns and villages en masse to remember their war dead. It was heartening to see so many young people, from children through to adolescents, coming together. Some honoured family members who had died in battle. Others came to remember in a more general way.

2021 marked the centenary of Remembrance commemorations.

As I watched the BBC’s coverage, it occurred to me that Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday are the only days left where a group of people can gather in unison and concord to remember the sacrifice of the men and women who died for our freedom.

These are the only days left where a common objective unites all of us, regardless of political persuasion or social class.

The Royal British Legion — now 100 years old — posts commemorative religious symbols to donors which they can mail back to the Legion with the names of soldiers they would like remembered. Most often, these are family members. This was the display near Parliament:

On Remembrance Sunday, the Bishop of London (Anglican) leads a short Christian service after politicians and Commonwealth representatives lay commemorative wreaths, as illustrated in the following photographs from the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Starting with the second photograph, the UK’s political leaders and Hoyle approach with their wreaths. Left to right, we see Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland), Sir Ed Davey (Liberal Democrats), Ian Blackford (Scottish National Party), Sir Keir Starmer (Labour Party) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Conservative Party). The Prime Minister is the first to lay his wreath, followed by Labour, SNP and so on, with the Speaker being the last in that group.

The first photograph shows some of the Commonwealth nations’ representatives behind the Speaker:

Unfortunately, for the first time in 22 years, the Queen was unable to attend the ceremony at the Cenotaph. According to Buckingham Palace, she is recovering from a sprained back following a few weeks of rest on health grounds.

The Daily Mail reported:

Boris Johnson has reassured the public that The Queen is very well after seeing her last week. 

The Prime Minister gave an update on the 95-year-old monarch’s health in a Downing Street conference on Sunday evening after she missed the Remembrance Sunday ceremony today for the first time in 22 years due to a back injury. 

Buckingham Palace said she made the decision not to attend the service at the Cenotaph in London on Sunday morning ‘with great regret’ and was ‘disappointed’ to miss the event.   

Speaking at the conference, Mr Johnson said: ‘I know that everybody will be wanting to offer their best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen.

‘I just want to reassure everybody by saying that I did see the Queen for an audience last week on Wednesday in Windsor and she is very well.

‘It shouldn’t need saying, but I just wanted to say it anyway.’ 

The daily list of official royal engagements showed that Mr Johnson had an audience with the Queen on Friday, as he was in Glasgow on Wednesday speaking at the Cop26 climate change summit. 

Queen Elizabeth had planned on attending the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph in London on Sunday and it would have marked her first in-person public engagement since she was advised to rest following a night in hospital last month.

It is understood the Queen’s back sprain is unrelated to her doctor’s recent advice to rest.

Buckingham Palace said: ‘The Queen, having sprained her back, has decided this morning with great regret that she will not be able to attend today’s Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph.

‘Her Majesty is disappointed that she will miss the service.

‘As in previous years, a wreath will be laid on Her Majesty’s behalf by the Prince of Wales.

‘His Royal Highness, along with the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra will be present at the Cenotaph today as planned.’

The event on Whitehall was given added poignancy by a return to pre-pandemic numbers of participating veterans and military, as well as onlookers.

The Prince of Wales and Prime Minister were among those laying a wreath at the war memorial for the National Service of Remembrance.

Boris Johnson, who appeared sombre as he laid a wreath, said it was a moment to ‘come together to remember those who sacrificed everything in service of our country’.

The Queen served in the British Army during the Second World War as a mechanic. When she became Queen, she still wore her Army uniform on Remembrance Sunday in the early years of her reign. Guido Fawkes posted a rare photo of her in uniform laying a wreath in the 1950s.

The Royal Family never left London during the Second World War, even though they were in as much danger as everyone else in the capital at that time.

The House of Commons was destroyed in the Blitz in May 1941:

Fortunately, it was faithfully restored to the way it was in the 19th century when the Palace of Westminster was rebuilt following a devastating fire.

Returning to the sentiments behind Remembrance Sunday, a small minority of Britons does not view it the way the rest of us do. Here is a tweet from the radical side of the Labour Party:

In that same vein, Mary Harrington wrote an excellent historical review of what happened in the years following the Great War (1914-1918) for the Daily Mail.

Those in positions of influence wanted to remake the Western world and thought it would be a good idea to erase the major unifying aspects of our society, particularly Christianity.

A century on, we are feeling those effects even more deeply.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

From the perspective of the ordinary citizen, the poppy simply marks an unimaginable loss. You’ll find a memorial in every parish up and down the country, some huge and some simple plaques. They’re markers of a collective grief, all the more unspeakable because it is so universal

But today, those who remember the fallen are almost all gone themselves. So what is the loss we’re left to remember?

The loss perhaps most clearly visible is the one concerning the values that, sadly, we no longer feel able to celebrate.

For the Great War saw the beginning of the end for faith in the foundations of a European culture that had held fast for generations.

By the end of the war in 1918, George V presided over a broken, debt-ridden empire, Tsar Nicholas was killed by revolutionaries and Kaiser Wilhelm was deposed and exiled.

The war spawned the first Communist state, and it shattered confidence in Western civilisation. Patriotism took a hammering and, perhaps more profoundly, so did institutional Christianity.

Indeed, most Christian denominations on both sides supported the conflict, with many at the time viewing it as a ‘holy war’.

Notoriously, in 1915, the Bishop of London declared it the duty of ‘everyone that puts principle above ease’ to ‘kill Germans… not for the sake of killing, but to save the world’.

The aftermath of the First World War saw a backlash by society’s elite – not just against nationalism, but also against traditional religious faith and cultural forms.

Historian Anna Neima shows how many among the world’s avant-garde sought to create new, ideal communities. They wanted to reimagine human society, so that nothing as horrifying could ever happen again, by transcending borders of faith or nation.

Humanity, such visionaries hoped, might be induced to forge links across what was considered to be mere national identity in favour of something higher. The elite that shared this inspiration was moulded by contact across the world as it attempted to shape humanity atop the smoking rubble of the imperialist 19th Century. Some went on to found their own visionary communities, such as the one set up at Dartington Hall in Devon by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst. It became a magnet for artists, architects, writers, philosophers and musicians from around the world, establishing a centre of creative activity.

It was at Dartington that the Labour politician Michael Young wrote the party’s post-war manifesto. At Dartington, and other communities like it, traditional practices and values were deemed worthy only for the scrap-heap – classical music, realist painting, traditional architecture. Everything should be new, stripped of the old-fashioned loyalties that had led to the slaughter of millions and left Europe in ruins

Everyone blamed that catastrophe on nationalism, religion and realpolitik. Elites tried to abolish all those things for good. For the good of humanity.

Significant in this was the high American ideal – inspired by President Woodrow Wilson – of nations shaping their own destinies.

With hindsight, even this now looks like realpolitik: a high ideal designed to end the empires of America’s European political rivals.

And now the liberal internationalism that Wilson set in motion has itself, ironically, come adrift in another set of poppy fields: those of Afghanistan. The American civilisation that took the torch from Europe is itself embattled, under economic and cultural siege

That said, yesterday’s gatherings in England, especially London, gave me hope for the future. Thousands of people came together to meet with their comrades, relive experiences, share laughs and lively conversation. On the sidelines, away from the Cenotaph, there were shared songs and even applause as the media interviewed various military participants, from current officers in the Armed Forces to old soldiers.

Our commonly held social values will survive, but we will need to constantly cherish and protect them.

There was a time when one could get an excellent job in the UK without a university degree.

In fact, one could get an excellent job even without secondary school qualifications.

It was so long ago, however, that those days have vanished in the mists of time.

At the end of October 2021, I read The Telegraph‘s obituary of advertising genius Mo Drake, who died in August at the age of 93.

By today’s standards, on paper, Mo Drake would appear to be a scholastic failure and doomed to a life on the dole. Yet, he worked in advertising and gave the UK one if its best known slogans for Heinz Baked Beans: Beanz Meanz Heinz.

This advert is from the early 1960s:

During the Second World War, Drake’s schooling was interrupted to the point where he received very little of it:

He passed the 11-plus but could not take up a place at grammar school because of the outbreak of war – and in fact did not attend secondary school at all until he was 14, and even then he left after a few months.

He was born a Cockney, within the range of the Bow (church) bells:

Maurice Drake was born in working-class Bromley-by-Bow, east London, on May 20 1928 to Thomas and Sarah Jane Drake. The family moved to Ilford [Essex] when he was three.

Nothing there in 2021 spells ‘success’.

However, young Mo Drake spent a lot of time reading. As such, he absorbed the cadence of the English language and developed a way with words.

As an adolescent, he started work at a London advertising agency:

After leaving school he worked as a filing clerk for the Thames advertising agency, before National Service in the RAF.

Afterwards, he worked for a PR agency:

He then joined the PR firm Armstrong Warden, where he proved so good at drafting publicity blurb that he was appointed a full-time copywriter.

Then he worked for a time as a comedy writer. He managed to link this to his former employers which ended up catapulting him to one of the top ad agencies, Young & Rubicam:

For a short spell in the early 1950s he left the company after he and a friend, Jack Potter, began to submit jokes to Bob Monkhouse, then a BBC scriptwriter, who introduced them as joke-writers to other entertainers such as Arthur Haynes and Bruce Forsyth. In the process he provided Drake with useful contacts in the entertainment industry on whom he could call after he returned to Armstrong Warden – and at Young & Rubicam, which he joined in 1959.

That was the start of a beautiful career, involving well known celebrities such as Bruce Forsyth and Frank Muir:

Thus Bruce Forsyth agreed to front a campaign for Maxwell House coffee, while he got Frank Muir to sing “Everyone’s a Fruit and Nut Case” for Cadbury’s.

Everyone over the age of 60 remembers ‘Fruit and Nut Case’:

As the years passed, more successful adverts followed, such as the iconic ‘Just one Cornetto’ for Wall’s, which I remember well:

When the Wall’s ad came out, Mo Drake was creative director of Grey Advertising and Lintas. His team had written the ad.

When Drake — the man with no school qualifications — retired, he lectured at universities and held a regular seminar at Trinity College, Oxford. That would never happen today.

In 2003, Mo Drake disparaged today’s advertising, criticising it for concentrating too much on special effects rather than a memorable slogan, invoking another advert of his:

For years after the Murray Mints campaign came out people were going round singing ‘Murray Mints, Murray Mints, the too good to hurry mints’. You can’t imagine that happening now.

Drake’s wife predeceased him. I wish his three daughters and a son all the best in the months ahead. They must surely miss their father.

Reading about his career, I could not help but wonder whether we will ever recapture the time when someone enterprising and literate can get a good job without school qualifications.

Today, it would be impossible to work in advertising without proper connections and a university degree. If Mo Drake were a teenager in 2021, he’d never get a look in. His job application would go in the bin, accompanied by peals of laughter. More’s the pity.

Sunday, June 6, 2021, was the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the Longest Day:

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This map shows the landings in Normandy:

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While preparing Sunday dinner, I listened to C-SPAN’s Sunday morning show, broadcast on BBC Parliament. Sarah Rose, the author of D-Day Girls, was the guest. Her book is a novel, but she did a lot of historical research showing the intelligence work that women did behind the scenes as part of a carefully-managed international network.

The phone-in included many sons and daughters of Second World War veterans. Nearly all said that those veterans were, understandably, highly reluctant to talk about their war experiences. However, some said that their fathers or grandfathers opened up in their later years. One caller said that she has several hours of memories that she has recorded for posterity, particularly for younger family members.

With more and more of those veterans passing from this mortal coil, now is the time for children and grandchildren to record and catalogue those memories, if they can. One person who has done so is the author of Pacific Paratrooper, remembering Everett A Smith, their father. It’s an excellent website, which also documents much history about the battles and conditions in the Pacific theatre. I am delighted to have the author as one of my regular readers.

We will always remember those heroic men and women:

Incidentally, the Houses of Parliament were bombed in 1941 and had to be reconstructed authentically in the 19th century manner. Both were faithfully restored. The next tweet shows the House of Commons:

Seventy-seven years later, we are still in the grip of the coronavirus crisis and a loss of freedom the troops involved in D-Day would have found unthinkable.

In Britain, former Prime Minister Tony Blair (Labour) appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to say that Britons who have had two vaccinations should be allowed greater freedoms, thereby creating a two-tier society:

If a Conservative had said that, Marr would have heaped criticism all over him or her.

It is mystifying that Tony Blair even gets airtime on this topic. He isn’t in government, nor is his party.

It appears I am not alone, judging from the replies to this tweet:

On the topic of vaccines, Tony Blair has never said if his son Leo, born when he was in No. 10, had the MMR vaccine, which was highly controversial at the time. So, it was okay for him to refuse to give his son a vaccine that every other child born in Britain had/has to have. It is very difficult to get separate children’s vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella. One imagines that Blair managed to get them for his son.

Tony Blair also wanted national ID cards. The debate raged for a few years in Parliament. Fortunately, nothing happened.

On Monday, Guido Fawkes’s cartoonist Rich, recalling the ID card debate from the Blair years, posted this:

On the topic of vaccines, the Government is talking about giving them to children. Highly dangerous, one would have thought. The Telegraph‘s Bob Moran was moved to create this cartoon a week ago:

ITV’s Good Morning Britain stoked the flames by asking whether the vaccinated should refuse to associate with the unvaccinated:

Fortunately, most Britons disagree with Good Morning Britain:

June 21 is supposed to be Freedom Day, according to the Government, with the caveat that full reopening of Britain will be based on data rather than dates.

It should come as no surprise that the Government could now backtrack on that date:

On June 1, we had no coronavirus deaths, but that did not make the news:

TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer is fed up with the delays. In fact, as the chart below from Peston shows, the UK’s actual coronavirus stats are much better than SAGE’s models:

On June 3, Portugal, the only European country on the UK’s green list for travel, was moved to the amber list, yet these charts tell a different story:

One suspects that it was only ever on the green list for the Champions League final in Porto:

Oddly, we had more freedom a year ago — with no masks and no vaccines — than we do now:

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford (Labour) says that social distancing will not be disappearing any time soon:

Data for the UK should be available on June 14, at which point the Government will announce their decision regarding June 21:

The Government have paid for coronavirus advertising and COVID marshals, extending to 2022. Former London Assembly member David Kurten tweeted a reminder:

I, too, want my country back.

In Germany, scientists from Munich University say that lockdown had no effect on the virus spread:

Something is very wrong when, in a five-minute speech on television, a prime minister or a president can remove everyone’s civil liberties at a stroke.

Monday, March 23, 2020, will be etched on my memory forever. That was the date of the UK’s first lockdown.

D-Day. Freedom Day. What has happened to us — and for a ‘pandemic’ with fatality rates no worse than influenza? We are in a very bad way, not only in the UK, but also elsewhere in the West.

This is my final post on Prince Philip, as the Queen and Princess Anne returned to work last week, just days before his funeral, but more importantly because of his own views:

The Queen

The Queen turned 95 today, Wednesday, April 21. May she have many happy returns. Prayers continue for God’s comfort to her at this difficult time:

The funeral commentators on Sky News remarked at how the Queen’s eyes always lit up when Prince Philip entered a room, even after 73 years of marriage:

She posted this photograph of herself with Prince Philip in Scotland, a nation which they loved. Muick, by the way, is pronounced ‘mick’:

The Countess of Wessex said that the Queen regarded him as her protector:

He also kept a gimlet eye on public opinion for her. One wonders how much he influenced the Queen to return to Buckingham Palace with Princes William and Harry after Princess Diana died in August 1997. As dictated by the media, we were under the impression that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair was responsible for the return of the Royal couple and their grandsons to London, but, now, one wonders:

The Queen will treasure the many memories of her husband — and his pragmatism.

Prince Philip’s practical wisdom

Prince Philip had straightforward views on various aspects of everyday life.

Attire

The Prince was probably the best dressed British man for decades. Who could top his effortless, yet classic, style of dress and accessories?

He also kept himself in trim throughout his life, which helped him maintain his sense of impeccable style:

The Daily Mail has an article with a retrospective of photos of him through the years. Although the Prince had his clothes made by top Savile Row tailors, all any man has to do is adopt the classics (emphases mine):

According to [celebrity stylist] Rochelle [White], the Duke’s suits were ‘impeccably’ tailored, with the royal selecting classic, handsome suiting; most often single-breasted jackets in navy. 

Meanwhile off-duty, the royal would often relax in a cool polo shirt and button-down linen shirts which made him ‘eye-catching’ …

Becky French, creative director of one of his preferred tailors Turnbull & Asser, told The Telegraph:Prince Philip was quite simply one of the best dressed men in the world, ‘Up until the age of 99, he always looked impeccable, with his naval blazer, shirt and tie.

‘Never a slave to fashion, he knew how he wanted to dress and perfected that style over almost a century.’ 

Brevity in public speaking

On Monday, April 12, both Houses of Parliament met to pay tribute to the Prince.

Ian Blackford (SNP) cited an excellent piece of advice from the Prince on public speaking. It is ironic that it was Blackford who found the following quote, as he speaks endlessly.

This is excellent — and so true:

What the backside cannot endure, the brain cannot absorb.

Fools

Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, a former MP, told Freddie Sayers of UnHerd that Prince Philip did not suffer fools gladly:

Honesty

A former Royal butler said much the same thing as Sir Nicholas Soames, adding that the Prince spoke as he found. As such, he enjoyed working for the Prince, because he told one exactly what he wanted, politely but succinctly:

Stiff upper lip

Prince Philip was a ‘stiff upper lip’, ‘old school’ gentleman:

However, as the generations pass, personal conduct changes:

Spiked‘s Tim Black referred to the interview with Sir Nicholas Soames above, writing (emphases mine):

As Tory grandee Nicholas Soames put it this week, Philip was ‘the epitome of the stiff upper lip’.

But so were many others of Philip’s generation. Because maintaining a stiff upper lip, remaining in control of one’s emotions, especially in public, was long considered by many to be a mark of one’s character. It was something to be cultivated, worked on. Because it meant that one was able to act according to something beyond one’s own impulses. It meant that one was committing oneself to something – a duty to others, perhaps, or to an idea or a cause – over and above one’s feelings. To not be in control of one’s emotions, to succumb easily to tears or anger, was the mark of a lack of character, a sign of immaturity.

Tim Black is right. Maintaining a stiff upper lip is hard work: no two ways about it.

Sense of duty

Tim Black pointed out that the Prince was devoted to duty:

You don’t have to be a fan of the monarchy – and we at spiked are not – to mourn the passing of the character represented by Prince Philip. ‘Everyone has to have a sense of duty’, he told an interviewer in 1992. ‘A duty to society, to their family.’ Too many in high places, it seems, only have a duty to themselves.

I think it is incumbent upon us to rediscover this lost virtue.

Some of Prince Philip’s duties involved recognising others for their achievements. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne recalled the Prince giving his father an award in 1970:

Interviews: never discuss yourself

Gyles Brandreth, a former Conservative MP, has written two books about the Royal Family. After the Prince’s death, the Daily Mail asked him what the Queen’s consort thought of Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah.

The Sun reported:

Gyles Brandreth told the Daily Mail the fact the interview was aired while Philip was is in hospital “did not trouble him”.

But he added: “What did worry him was the couple’s preoccupation with their own problems and their willingness to talk about them in public.

Give TV interviews by all means,’ he said, ‘but don’t talk about yourself.

That was one of his rules. I know he shared it with his children. I imagine he shared it with his grandchildren, too.”

The royal biographer revealed Philip, who died on Friday aged 99, thought the interview was “madness”.

Mr Brandeth also said Philip believed his grandson was a “good man” but regretted his decision to step down as a senior royal.

Prince Philip gave many interviews. In the following one from 1995, he discussed his memories of the Second World War. Remarkably, revealing little about himself, he spoke of the various ships on which he served and the tension surrounding battle. Whilst conversational, he speaks so well in recalling so many details that might as well be narrating a documentary. This is a marvellous video, especially for people interested in the war in the Pacific:

Food

Probably the only time Prince Philip and the Queen disagreed was when it came to their meals.

A former Royal chef, Darren McGrady, who now works in the United States, says that the Queen ate to live, whereas the Prince lived to eat. As such, the Prince did not mind if the Queen had a dinner engagement elsewhere, because he could request what he wanted from the kitchen.

The Queen doesn’t like garlic. Prince Philip did. Sometimes McGrady prepared the same dinner two different ways: garlic-free for the Queen and extra garlic for the Prince. McGrady discusses the subject here:

Both were known to bring back recipes from their international tours for the Royal chefs to prepare once they were back in the UK.

In the next video, McGrady relates his first meeting with the Prince, whom he mistook for the gardener because of his scruffy, well-worn clothes. Here he prepares one of the Prince’s favourite dishes, salmon coulibiac, a Russian form of salmon en croute:

In this next video, McGrady said that the Prince did not suffer fools gladly. He was no stranger to the Royal kitchens, stopping in to ask what was being served and, during the summer, what fruit was ripening. McGrady said that the Prince already knew what was in the gardens, therefore, the staff had to know, too. Prince Philip taught McGrady how to remove mango fruit with a spoon. Another favourite dish of his was Icelandic pancakes, filled with jam and folded in half. The recipe is at the 6:47 mark:

Those who knew him, including Darren McGrady, said that the Prince enjoyed barbecuing — whatever the weather. One of the Sky News funeral commentators said that the Prince held a barbecue in freezing weather one January. The Prince loved it; his guests were polite — and cold.

The Prince also went in for fancier meats to grill outdoors, such as lamb noisettes. He found steaks rather ordinary, McGrady says.

Gordonstoun

On April 12, the Daily Mail revealed previously undisclosed details about Prince Philip’s schooldays at Gordonstoun (pron. ‘Gordons-town’) in Scotland. The article comes complete with photographs. He was Prince Philip of Greece at the time, with no surname.

Although he could be mischievous, he always wanted to do better in his studies and school activities:

The Duke of Edinburgh‘s old boarding school has released his report cards which reveal ‘he was naughty, but never nasty’.

The report from the £40,000-per-year Gordonstoun in Moray was written for the Duke’s marriage to The Queen in 1947.

Headmaster Kurt Hahn’s notes also reveal a comical incident when the young prince nearly knocked over a young woman with a pram – but his apology was ‘irresistible’.

The school has educated three generations of the UK Royal Family – including Prince Philip, who joined at the age of 13. 

Gordonstoun – which featured in Netflix’s hit series ‘The Crown’ – was founded by Dr Hahn, who fled Nazi Germany and became an inspiring mentor to Philip. 

When Philip came to Gordonstoun ‘his marked trait was his undefeatable spirit, he felt deeply both joy and sadness, and the way he looked and the way he moved indicated what he felt’

Dr Hahn noted of the young pupil: ‘He had grown impatient of what for short may be called Royalty nonsense. After matches and theatrical performances, people often asked him for an autograph. He found this ridiculous and on one occasion signed himself ”The Earl of Baldwin”, to the bewilderment of the autograph-hunter.’ 

He also reveals Philip had ‘meticulous attention to detail’ and was ‘never content with mediocre results’ … 

Sarah Ferguson

It seems that the only person the Prince was not keen on was Sarah Ferguson.

While the Queen is quite fond of her — Andrew being her favourite child — the Prince preferred to keep her at arm’s length.

My older readers might remember when, in 1992, photos of her lover sucking her toes circulated around the world. Prince Philip decided that was the moment she was persona non grata.

On April 13, Gyles Brandreth wrote an article for the Daily Mail on the Prince’s views of Fergie:

On the whole, Prince Philip was reasonably circumspect when talking about his children and their relationships — except in the case of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.

He spoke with real affection of their daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, but he made no secret of the fact that he regarded Sarah, Duchess of York, as ‘simply beyond the pale’.

One day in the summer of 1992, while she was staying at Balmoral with the Queen and Prince Philip, photographs had appeared in a daily newspaper of Sarah topless and having her toes sucked by a lover in the South of France.

The Duke of Edinburgh decided that, as far as he was concerned, ‘enough was enough’. He did not want — or need — to have anything more to do with her.

For the remainder of Sarah’s stay at Balmoral, his actions spoke louder than words. ‘It was ridiculous,’ she told me. ‘As soon as I came in through one door, he’d be falling over the corgis to get out of the other. It was very funny. Except, of course, it wasn’t.’

After Sarah’s separation from Prince Andrew, the Queen continued to have tea with her from time to time.

But Prince Philip was resolute: he had no desire to see her again.

This Sarah knew and it pained her. ‘Of course I want to see him,’ she told me after her divorce. ‘I am the mother of his granddaughters, after all.’

I raised this with Prince Philip, but he just shrugged and said: ‘But the children come and stay.’

When I asked him why he wouldn’t see Sarah, he said: ‘I am not vindictive.’ Then, looking at me directly, he added emphatically: ‘I am not vindictive, but I don’t see the point.’ That Andrew and Sarah appeared to remain friends after their separation — and that they shared a home even after their divorce — seemed to him ‘truly bizarre’.

‘I don’t pretend to understand it,’ he said.

Sarah, however, kept trying to mend bridges … 

I’m with Prince Philip on that. I could never understand Fergie and Andrew’s relationship. I still don’t.

On April 15, The Sun reported that both Sarah and Andrew have been seen with the Queen:

They have been making the short drive from Royal Lodge to Windsor Castle, sometimes twice a day, to walk with the Queen and her new corgis.

However, Andrew has been warned to forget plans to use his public appearances as a springboard back into royal duty.

Royal watchers believe Philip’s passing aged 99 boosts the chances of Fergie making a comeback after years in the wilderness.

Now her husband has departed, the Queen, who has a soft spot for her former daughter-in-law, might be more open to the idea of her and Andrew returning to a more prominent role within the Firm.

Princess Anne

Prince Philip was closest to his daughter Anne.

Princess Anne’s own children have praised her as a mother. She gave her father full credit:

The Prince might have been no-nonsense, but he had fun, especially with three generations of Royal children.

This is a priceless little video:

He also kept his children amused on car trips:

Princess Anne survived a kidnapping attempt in 1974:

Prince Philip was no stranger to Royal weddings. On the right hand side of the photo montage, he walked Princess Margaret down the aisle (George VI had died a few years beforehand) and, in 1973, Princess Anne:

So that Anne would smile walking down the aisle, the Prince cracked one of his usual jokes, which made her laugh:

This was the happy result:

Here’s a close up of her gown, which has attracted much favourable comment.

After her father’s death, Princess Anne released a statement, along with a photo:

Three days later, she was back at work:

Great-grandchildren

Members of the Royal Family have posted some splendid photos of Prince Philip with his great-grandchildren.

Here he is taking Prince George for a carriage ride:

The next photo shows the Prince sharing a bite to eat with Princess Anne’s granddaughter. Click to see it in full — absolutely charming:

This group photo was taken in 2018 and made the front page of the Daily Express on Thursday, April 15:

More tributes

The Daily Mail has an article recapping pre-recorded interviews with Prince Philip’s children. These were broadcast after he died. ITV has more, complete with longer clips.

The Royal Family also posted a multi-generational photo montage.

Prince William wrote that his grandfather shared his life at all times:

both through good times and the hardest days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and fellow MPs paid tribute on Monday, April 12, as did members of the House of Lords. A number of their anecdotes are not only interesting but also amusing. In the devolved assemblies, including Northern Ireland, the only person who had anything negative to say was Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens.

Conclusion

In closing, I do wish that the general public had known more about Prince Philip while he was alive. We could have had an even fuller recollection of his life and service, not only to the UK but also to the Commonwealth.

Will there ever be another like him? We might be waiting a century or more. The only other Royal consort who was mentioned in the many tributes was Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. He died in 1861.

With that in mind, it will be up to us to emulate the best of Prince Philip’s example. Adopting a stiff upper lip would be a great start. So would feeling a sense of duty towards others.

Friday, May 8, 2020, was a national holiday in the UK to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

It’s a bittersweet commemoration.

The Allies fought for our freedom.

In the UK, we are still in lockdown for coronavirus.

Not a day has gone by when I haven’t considered that all those freedoms fought for were taken from us on the evening of Monday, March 23, 2020. All it took was an announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

This is where we are:

We await Boris’s announcement on Sunday, May 10, re lockdown.

This tweet is from the co-editor of Conservative Woman:

I find it hard to believe that Boris can credibly extend lockdown (which isn’t saying he won’t) …

… particularly in light of Prof Neil Ferguson’s bogus numbers

… and resignation from SAGE for having his mistress over — twice:

Boris told us his was to be the People’s Government. I hope someone reminds him of that.

This was VE Day 2020, as Kathy Gyngell, the other co-editor of Conservative Woman, puts so aptly:

This letter to the editor comes from author Virginia Ironside, born a year before VE Day:

She nails it in the last paragraph.

The lockdown has shown there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. Ferguson’s lover said that lockdown was straining her marriage. Aww diddums. She lives in a £1.9m house. Imagine if she were living with an abusive husband on the 15th floor of a council block:

So, what hope have we?

I have never lost sight of this fact:

A German virologist agrees. (I’m ever thankful that peacetime brought Europe together.) I watched this interview, which is excellent:

Meanwhile, in Sweden:

And let’s not forget the economic impact, the worst since 1706:

These facts make watching the late afternoon daily coronavirus briefing all the more painful.

Dominic Raab, Boris’s First Secretary (deputy PM), was at the main lectern on Thursday, May 7:

One veteran of the Second World War, Captain Tom Moore, raised more than $28m for the NHS by walking around his garden 100 times. He uses a zimmerframe (walker), so this could not have been easy.

For his 100th birthday a few days ago, the Royal Air Force gave him his own personal flypast.

And now ITV made a documentary about his time in the war, which was shown on Friday:

God bless him. Many happy returns, Captain Tom!

A 100-year-old RAF veteran died in Salford last week.

Oswald ‘Ossie’ Dixon has no family in England. It’s probable that he outlived his friends, too.

Therefore, an appeal has been sent for people living in the Salford/Manchester area to attend his funeral on Wednesday, October 9:

Originally from Jamaica, Ossie Dixon fought in the Second World War.

The Manchester Evening News — a great newspaper, by the way — featured an excellent and moving article on his life last week along with an appeal to attend his funeral:

An RAF veteran with no family has died at the age of 100.

Now the public are being asked to turn out to salute his life and sacrifice at his funeral.

Oswald Dixon – known as ‘Ossie’ – made Manchester his home after leaving Jamaica to serve during the Second World War.

He was the oldest resident at Broughton House care home for veterans in Salford and passed away peacefully at the home on September 25.

Mr Dixon turned 100 in April.

Known for his wicked sense of humour, he joined the RAF in Kingston, Jamaica, in November, 1944, as a flight mechanic then moved to Britain to serve before the conflict ended.

He became a leading aircraftman and remained in the service teaching new recruits until he retired.

Mr Dixon, who was registered blind, was living alone in Salford until he moved to Broughton House in 2015.

He received greetings from the Queen, the Government and the Jamaican High Commissioner on his milestone birthday earlier this year, which was celebrated at the care home with a huge party.

Co-op Funeral Care in Salford has arranged his funeral for Agecroft Cemetery and Crematorium in Salford on Wednesday, October 9.

The service is due to start at 2.20pm.

Read more here and see photos of this generous veteran who made it his life’s mission to help other people and bring joy into their lives.

I was particularly impressed by the photo of him on his 100th birthday in his dress uniform. He looked very smart, indeed.

May God bless Oswald Dixon with eternal rest in Heaven.

UPDATE — October 9:

I am pleased to report that many people turned out for Oswald Dixon’s funeral:

Johnny Mercer MP is our minister for veterans.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were in England and Normandy for commemorations of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The night before, he hosted Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall for dinner at the US ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park, London. The guests at his table were also in Portsmouth the following morning. Theresa May is on the right in the photo:

On Wednesday, June 5, the Royal Family’s Twitter account summarised D-Day’s importance:

Also:

The Allied landings on the Normandy beaches marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.

This was the scene in Portsmouth, on England’s south coast that day:

A short time later, veterans who had been involved 75 years ago began taking their seats:

The Queen, who served as a mechanic during the war, arrived:

This is a photograph for the history books:

Warm exchanges took place beforehand:

The Queen stood between Prince Charles and President Trump to watch the proceedings:

She addressed the crowd, referencing her father, George VI:

President Trump read then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s prayer for the troops:

D-Day veterans appeared on the dais to grateful applause.

Actress Celia Imrie (speaking in the next video) compered (emceed) the various performances:

The following ABC News video has the Portsmouth commemorations in their entirety:

The BBC has a set of photographs covering the day’s events.

Afterwards, the Queen, Prince Charles and the Trumps met with veterans who so bravely served in D-Day operations:

Trump also met with British veterans as well as US Navy personnel based in England:

The Queen then bade farewell to the Trumps, who were leaving for Ireland, where the president met with the prime minister there that afternoon:

The Trumps went to Normandy the following day for D-Day ceremonies before returning to Ireland, then onwards to the United States.

The Q Tree has the Trumps’ schedule after Portsmouth for the rest of June 5 (emphasis in the original):

2:50pm BST / 9:50am EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY depart Southsea Commons en route to Southsea Castle Landing Zone, Portsmouth, United Kingdom

2:55pm BST / 9:55am EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at Southsea Castle Landing Zone, Portsmouth, United Kingdom

3:05pm BST / 10:05am EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY depart Portsmouth, United Kingdom, en route to Southampton Airport, Southampton, United Kingdom, Portsmouth, United Kingdom

3:25pm BST / 10:25am EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at Southampton Airport, Southampton, United Kingdom

3:35pm BST / 10:35am EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY depart Southampton Airport en route Shannon Airport, Shannon, Ireland, Southampton, United Kingdom

U.K State Visit Concludes ~

4:50pm IST / 11:50am EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at Shannon Airport, Shannon, Ireland

5:00pm IST / 12:00pm EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY depart Shannon Airport en route to Shannon Airport Terminal, Shannon, Ireland

5:05pm IST / 12:05pm EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at Shannon Airport Terminal, Shannon, Ireland

5:15pm IST / 12:15pm EST THE PRESIDENT participates in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland, Shannon, Ireland

5:20pm IST / 12:20pm EST THE PRESIDENT participates in an expanded bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland, Shannon, Ireland

6:00PM IST / 1:00pm EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY depart Shannon Airport Terminal en route to Shannon Airport, Shannon, Ireland

6:05pm IST / 1:05PM EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at Shannon Airport, Shannon, Ireland

6:15pm IST / 1:15pm EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY depart Shannon, Airport, en route to Trump International Doonbeg Landing Zone, Doonbeg, Ireland, Shannon, Ireland

6:35pm IST / 1:35pm EST THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at Trump International Doonbeg Landing Zone, Doonbeg, Ireland

The Clare Champion featured their arrival:

At the end of Tuesday, Trump tweeted:

He and his entourage would fly from Ireland to Colleville-sur-Mer in the département of Calvados of Normandy the following morning.

Speaking of Normandy, two British veterans were preparing to re-enact their jumps from 1944. Here is one of them undergoing a refresher course:

This is what happened on Wednesday, June 6:

This is what the Trumps saw as they landed in France that morning:

The following is an excerpt of President Trump’s speech on Omaha Beach:

The Q Tree has his speech in full on Omaha Beach, excerpted below (emphases mine). More than 60 surviving American D-Day veterans flew to France for this important anniversary. Many more Second World War military survivors also attended:

President Macron, Mrs. Macron, and the people of France; to the First Lady of the United States and members of the United States Congress; to distinguished guests, veterans, and my fellow Americans:

We are gathered here on Freedom’s Altar. On these shores, on these bluffs, on this day 75 years ago, 10,000 men shed their blood, and thousands sacrificed their lives, for their brothers, for their countries, and for the survival of liberty.

Today, we remember those who fell, and we honor all who fought right here in Normandy. They won back this ground for civilization.

To more than 170 veterans of the Second World War who join us today: You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. You’re the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Here with you are over 60 veterans who landed on D-Day. Our debt to you is everlasting. Today, we express our undying gratitude.

When you were young, these men enlisted their lives in a Great Crusade — one of the greatest of all times. Their mission is the story of an epic battle and the ferocious, eternal struggle between good and evil.

On the 6th of June, 1944, they joined a liberation force of awesome power and breathtaking scale. After months of planning, the Allies had chosen this ancient coastline to mount their campaign to vanquish the wicked tyranny of the Nazi empire from the face of the Earth.

The battle began in the skies above us. In those first tense midnight hours, 1,000 aircraft roared overhead with 17,000 Allied airborne troops preparing to leap into the darkness beyond these trees.

Then came dawn. The enemy who had occupied these heights saw the largest naval armada in the history of the world. Just a few miles offshore were 7,000 vessels bearing 130,000 warriors. They were the citizens of free and independent nations, united by their duty to their compatriots and to millions yet unborn.

There were the British, whose nobility and fortitude saw them through the worst of Dunkirk and the London Blitz. The full violence of Nazi fury was no match for the full grandeur of British pride.

There were the Canadians, whose robust sense of honor and loyalty compelled them to take up arms alongside Britain from the very, very beginning.

There were the fighting Poles, the tough Norwegians, and the intrepid Aussies. There were the gallant French commandos, soon to be met by thousands of their brave countrymen ready to write a new chapter in the long history of French valor.

And, finally, there were the Americans. They came from the farms of a vast heartland, the streets of glowing cities, and the forges of mighty industrial towns. Before the war, many had never ventured beyond their own community. Now they had come to offer their lives half a world from home.

This beach, codenamed Omaha, was defended by the Nazis with monstrous firepower, thousands and thousands of mines and spikes driven into the sand, so deeply. It was here that tens of thousands of the Americans came

One of those men in [Colonel George] Taylor’s 16th Regiment was Army medic Ray Lambert. Ray was only 23, but he had already earned three Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars fighting in North Africa and Sicily, where he and his brother Bill, no longer with us, served side by side.

In the early morning hours, the two brothers stood together on the deck of the USS Henrico, before boarding two separate Higgins landing craft. “If I don’t make it,” Bill said, “please, please take care of my family.” Ray asked his brother to do the same.

Of the 31 men on Ray’s landing craft, only Ray and 6 others made it to the beach. There were only a few of them left. They came to the sector right here below us. “Easy Red” it was called. Again and again, Ray ran back into the water. He dragged out one man after another. He was shot through the arm. His leg was ripped open by shrapnel. His back was broken. He nearly drowned.

He had been on the beach for hours, bleeding and saving lives, when he finally lost consciousness. He woke up the next day on a cot beside another badly wounded soldier. He looked over and saw his brother Bill. They made it. They made it. They made it.

At 98 years old, Ray is here with us today, with his fourth Purple Heart and his third Silver Star from Omaha. Ray, the free world salutes you. Thank you, Ray.

Trump related a few more real life stories about what is known as the Longest Day, unimaginably harrowing. God was with the Allied troops.

Trump concluded:

The men behind me will tell you that they are just the lucky ones. As one of them recently put it, “All the heroes are buried here.” But we know what these men did. We knew how brave they were. They came here and saved freedom, and then, they went home and showed us all what freedom is all about.

The American sons and daughters who saw us to victory were no less extraordinary in peace. They built families. They built industries. They built a national culture that inspired the entire world. In the decades that followed, America defeated communism, secured civil rights, revolutionized science, launched a man to the moon, and then kept on pushing to new frontiers. And, today, America is stronger than ever before.

Seven decades ago, the warriors of D-Day fought a sinister enemy who spoke of a thousand-year empire. In defeating that evil, they left a legacy that will last not only for a thousand years, but for all time — for as long as the soul knows of duty and honor; for as long as freedom keeps its hold on the human heart.

To the men who sit behind me, and to the boys who rest in the field before me, your example will never, ever grow old. Your legend will never tire. Your spirit — brave, unyielding, and true — will never die.

The blood that they spilled, the tears that they shed, the lives that they gave, the sacrifice that they made, did not just win a battle. It did not just win a war. Those who fought here won a future for our nation. They won the survival of our civilization. And they showed us the way to love, cherish, and defend our way of life for many centuries to come.

Today, as we stand together upon this sacred Earth, we pledge that our nations will forever be strong and united. We will forever be together. Our people will forever be bold. Our hearts will forever be loyal. And our children, and their children, will forever and always be free.

May God bless our great veterans. May God bless our Allies. May God bless the heroes of D-Day. And may God bless America.

The Q Tree has full coverage, including this 90-minute video of the day’s commemorations:

This is NBC’s video, which begins with an analysis of D-Day:

French president Emmanuel Macron also addressed the American veterans. I was in France at the time and watched part of his speech on BFMTV. It was highly evocative and really captured the idea of Americana. Whoever wrote it should get a pay rise. I was very moved by it. He spoke, as did Trump, of young soldiers from farms in the Midwest mixing with their comrades from Manhattan and New Jersey, writing their girlfriends farewell letters.

Afterwards, Macron shook hands with all the veterans and spoke with each individually. I’m not a Macron fan at all, but I have to give him credit for that.

Trump tweeted a short video recapping his day in Normandy:

This is the view of the Trumps’ departure, returning to Ireland before flying back to Washington:

Reflecting on D-Day, someone online posted this excellent graphic from Gab:

We should be so grateful for everything that God has given us — especially peace and freedom in the Western world.

However, it would also be prudent to look at how we have squandered the opportunities for our young people in peacetime. The safe space generation is not equipped to deal with the horrors of life such as it is.

May the good Lord grant us the wisdom to get us out of a navel-gazing attitude towards one of genuine progress and ingenuity, such as that of the post-war years.

In closing, let us give thanks to the Greatest Generation for their immense courage and bravery.

On Thursday, December 27, the good Lord took Richard Arvin Overton, America’s oldest veteran and living male, to his heavenly rest.

Mr Overton was 112 years old and died of pneumonia-related complications.

A God-fearing churchgoer, he was of the old school in his daily habit of smoking Tampa Sweet cigars — up to 12 — and enjoying whisky. He was still driving a car at the age of 109.

This intriguing video shows us more about this good man, who served his country during the Second World War:

Black History Heroes honoured him on Veterans Day this year:

Prior to that, Richard Overton, a lifelong Texan, received other public honours, as Wikipedia tells us:

Overton gained media attention during the 2013 Memorial Day weekend when he told Fox News he would spend his Memorial Day “smoking cigars and drinking whiskey-stiffened coffee.”[11] On that same Memorial Day, Overton met with Texas Governor Rick Perry. Overton was also invited to the White House where he met with President Barack Obama, and to the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where he was singled out by name for praise by the President.[5][12][13]

During an NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies on March 24, 2017, Overton was honored during a half-time break.[14]

Overton is the subject of a 2016 documentary, Mr. Overton, in which he is interviewed about his daily routine, thoughts on his longevity, and his military service.[15][16] On May 3, 2016, he became the oldest surviving American veteran after the death of Frank Levingston.[17][18][19]

On his 111th birthday, the University of Texas club feted him with a luncheon. Biography reports that he said:

111, that’s pretty old, ain’t it. I can still get around, I can still talk, I can still see, I can still walk.

His home city of Austin — the Texas state capital — even officially designated his birthday as Richard Overton Day. How cool is that?

Richard Overton was born to Gentry Overton, Sr. and Elizabeth Franklin Overton Waters on May 11, 1906, in Bastrop County, Texas. He was a great grandson of John Overton Jr., whose father served as a political adviser to President Andrew Jackson.

Wikipedia provides us with details about his tour of duty during the Second World War:

Overton enlisted into the U.S. military on September 3, 1940 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.[8]

He served in the South Pacific from 1940 through 1945, including stops in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima. He left the U.S. Army in October 1945 as a technician fifth grade.[9]

He earned several service medals, including the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the US Army Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

After the war ended, Overton worked in furniture shops before taking on a position with the Texas Department of the Treasury, as it was known at the time.

He married twice and had no children.

In 2016, his relatives launched a GoFundMe campaign so that he could continue to live in his own home rather than go to an assisted living facility. The GoFundMe campaign was wildly successful and raised more than $200,000 as of 2017. Biography says that Home Depot and Meals on Wheels also made their own donations. Ultimately, Richard Overton was able to have his house refit to accommodate his changing health circumstances and enable round the clock care at home.

Biography tells us that, when asked if he had any secrets to a long life:

Overton simply replied that he has none. “I don’t have a secret,” he told People. I am here because the man upstairs wants me to be here… He put me here, and he decides when it’s my time to go.”

Well said!

His funeral will take place in Austin on January 12, 2019; KXAN has details. His house could well be turned into a museum — his dying wish.

Richard Overton honoured God, his country, his family and his fellow citizens.

One cannot say better than this …

… other than to add: may he rest in peace.

On Monday, March 20, 2017, Britain’s singing legend Dame Vera Lynn, celebrated her 100th birthday.

Dame Vera is as iconic as the Queen.

Incredibly, on March 17, Decca Records released her latest album, Vera Lynn 100: We’ll Meet Again. She is thought to be the first centenarian to have a new album on sale.

The London Evening Standard reports (emphases mine below):

The record comes eight years after Dame Vera became the oldest living artist to land a UK number one album and also marks the wartime singer’s 93 years in the industry as she made her stage debut at the age of seven.

New re-orchestrated versions of her most beloved music alongside her original vocals will feature on the music release …

The album also features a previously unreleased version of Sailing – a surprise find as it was not widely known she had recorded the track.

Dame Vera recorded the songs with young British talent, including Alfie Boe and The Ayoub Sisters.

A photo of her with a Happy Birthday message was projected onto the white cliffs of Dover, also the name of one of her greatest wartime hits. Others, too numerous to mention, included We’ll Meet Again and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square:

Dame Vera still lives at home in Ditchling, East Sussex.

Yesterday, the BBC reported that she participated in a Skype call from home with students from her old school, Brampton Primary School in East Ham, east London. The students serenaded her with a selection of her most famous songs.

The Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity held a daytime party on top of the white cliffs of Dover. It was very windy that day, but:

veterans, re-enactors and the Singing Sweethearts serenaded Dame Vera and sang happy birthday.

A military-style salute and flag-waving carried on regardless, all in support of her children’s charity but also celebrating the 100th birthday of our own Forces’ Sweetheart.

The Evening Standard reported:

Dame Vera said: “It is an unprecedented honour to have my birthday marked in such a beautiful way and I am truly thrilled by this wonderful gesture.

“As we look to the white cliffs on Monday, I will be thinking of all our brave boys – the cliffs were the last thing they saw before heading off to war and, for those fortunate enough to return, the first thing they saw upon returning home.

“I feel so blessed to have reached this milestone and I can’t think of a more meaningful way to mark the occasion.”

BBC Radio 2 asked her for her advice on ageing:

… she said: “Be active to your full capabilities.

“Keep interested, read books, watch television and try to keep in touch with life and what people are doing, seeing and enjoying.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 2, she added: “While you can do that, I hope you will continue.”

Finally! Someone who defends television! Thank you, Dame Vera!

Dame Vera gave an exclusive newspaper interview to The Sun:

“I try not to worry too much about anything any more, and enjoy every day as it comes,” she says.

“There is always something we can be concerned about. The secret is to rise above it and do whatever we can to make the world a better place.”

As for the young Second World War troops who loved her and her music:

she is still full of praise for the true Brits who gave up everything to bring peace to future generations.

She adds: “The war was a dark and difficult time but it was quite easy to keep faith when I saw for myself the sacrifices being made by the boys on the front line and everyone on the Home Front.

“The community spirit and collective sense of patriotism saw us all through.”

Also:

“The white cliffs were the last thing they saw before they left for war and, for those fortunate enough to return, the first thing they saw to tell them they were home.”

The Sun reminds us of why Dame Vera was The Forces’ Sweetheart:

To borrow from the familiar lyrics, millions of men and women didn’t have the chance to meet their loved ones again some sunny day.

But at least Vera gave them hope and comfort in the darkness and it explains why she ranks her people’s title of Forces Sweetheart as highly as any official accolade.

“I consider it to be one of my greatest achievements,” she affirms. “I feel very honoured that people regard me in this way.

“I am exceptionally fond of all the brave servicemen and women who have worked, and continue to work, to keep us safe and secure, and protect our values.”

The BBC has a great retrospective, complete with family photos, of Dame Vera’s life and career. Highlights follow:

Vera Welch was born on 20 March 1917 in East Ham in London. Neither of her parents were involved in showbusiness – her father Bertram was a plumber and mother Annie a dressmaker. But by the age of seven, the talented young Vera was singing in working men’s clubs – an audience she described as “great” – and soon became the family’s main breadwinner.

This is my favourite:

When she turned 11, Vera took her grandmother’s maiden name of Lynn as a stage name. She had no formal singing lessons as a child – and just one as an adult. She said: “I thought I could extend my range but when the teacher heard me sing she said ‘I cannot train that voice, it’s not a natural voice’. So I said: ‘Well thank you very much madam’, and left.”

I do wonder what that teacher thought later! You know what they say: ‘Those who can’t do …’

Dame Vera started singing professionally at the age of 15 and released her first single at the age of 19:

By the age of 22 she had sold more than a million records, bought her parents a house and herself a car.

During the Second World War, she went on tour:

it was during World War Two that her reputation was made. She frequently sang to the troops at morale-boosting concerts, becoming known to posterity as The Forces’ Sweetheart.

She married Harry Lewis in 1941. They had a daughter, Virginia. Harry died in 1998. Mother and daughter are still very close.

Dame Vera appeared on radio shows. Below, she is the lady in the fur coat:

Dame Vera’s career and fame continued after the war ended:

She was appointed OBE in 1969, made a Dame in 1975, and a Companion of Honour in 2016. Her wartime fame meant she was never far from the television screens …

She enjoyed meeting new talent:

She made the acquaintance of glam rock band Slade in 1973, when they gathered round a piano at the Melody Maker Awards.

Her records continue to sell very well and she:

holds the record for being the oldest living artist to achieve a top 20 UK album.

Over the years, Dame Vera has participated in many Second World War commemorative events.

In closing, this is what the Queen wrote Dame Vera on her 100th birthday:

You cheered and uplifted us all in the War and after the War, and I am sure that this evening the blue birds of Dover will be flying over to wish you a happy anniversary, Elizabeth R.

Many happy returns, Dame Vera Lynn!

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