Churchill's secretaries were shouted at, worked 20-hour days, and had to record dictations on ladders



by Cita Stelzer (Head of Zeus £ 20, 400 pages)

Fetch me! & # 39; That was Winston Churchill, who gave instructions to his trembling new secretary Kathleen Hill in 1937 when she worked for him on her first night.

& # 39; Klop & # 39; was Churchill's private onomatopoeic word for his punch. But Kathleen had no idea what he meant.

In his study, she had seen a 14-volume history of the Hanoverian houses in German by a historian named Onno Klopp. She thought Churchill should mean that, so she went into the study and stumbled back with all 14 volumes.

& # 39; God Almighty! & # 39; Churchill roared. Then he said: 'Good try. . . but not what I wanted. & # 39;

Winston Churchill, pictured in his office on Downing Street just before the end of World War II, shows the women who helped him in a new book

That's how it was to work for Churchill, as Cita Stelzer's glorious new book shows, that first-hand memories of his secretaries are woven together. It was right at the deep end.

They would be called to the present – and if it were morning, he would sit in bed in his brocade coat and light his cigar from a candle, with his cat as a hot water bottle, all nine papers strewn across the duvet every day and one Whiskey and soda to get him through at lunchtime.

He started mumbling, "My dear someone," and you'd have to start "knocking down" right away – d. H. to take dictation.

Churchill said to Hill a few days later, “Call the doctor. I do not feel good. & # 39;

"Who's your doctor?" She asked.

"Dr. Scott, he died."

Another day it was easy: "Call Ian, who lives in Sussex."

You had to use your initiative in this job. "Losing weight" on the bed was a breeze compared to Churchill's other favorite dictation sites.

He liked to dictate when he was in the bathroom. The secretaries were forced to sit outside the door, and they could hear him appearing under water and blowing and blowing. His only male secretary, Patrick Kinna, was the only one who could accompany him to the bathroom.

Marian Holmes, Churchill's secretary (left), pictured with Elizabeth Layton at Checkers

Marian Holmes, Churchill's secretary (left), pictured with Elizabeth Layton at Checkers

Kinna stayed in the White House during the war and was in the bathroom when Churchill's bathrobe fell off the moment Roosevelt knocked and got into his wheelchair. "You see, Mr. President," Churchill said to him, "I have nothing to hide from you."

Back in Chartwell, his home in Kent, Churchill dictated from a ladder while he was laying bricks for a new house, and his secretaries had to dictate a few bars below. On his twice-weekly trips between Chartwell and London, they should transfer the dictation directly to a typewriter. Part of the job was feeling car sick in the cigar smoke-filled Daimler that was stuck between luggage, flowers, and pets.

The pets were not only Rufus I or Rufus II (Churchill's poodle), but also Toby, the budgerigar that he had let out of his cage while traveling, letting the bird bounce around and nibble on your ear while you were trying to type.

Other secretarial requirements included ordering worms for the special fish he kept in Chartwell, walking the poodles, ordering frames for his paintings, and ensuring that the right type of champagne was shipped wherever Churchill was World stopped.

Annoying and exhausting? Certainly. He expected his secretaries to work until 2.30-3 a.m. and then said, "When could you start in the morning?"

Back in Chartwell, his home in Kent, Churchill dictated from a ladder while he was laying bricks for a new house, and his secretaries had to dictate a few bars below

They jokingly called themselves "the serf club".

But the real progression of emotions when he started working for him was (according to Doreen Pugh, his secretary from 1955 to 1965): "fear – respect – worship." Reading this book reinforces the feeling that Churchill was a really great man when "greatness" meant both statesmanlike brilliance and humanity.

Even at the darkest moment in May 1940, when the Germans were apparently about to enter Britain, Churchill underscored the morning dictation of urgent memos by lovingly looking at Nelson, his cat, on the duvet next to him and saying, “Cat, darling. & # 39;

His temper losses were short-lived and he never had resentment. Although he was a slave driver (his first reaction when he heard that a secretary was sick or injured was "But can she still lose weight?"), He lit fires for them when they were cold, making sure that they had hot toddlers or cups of tea. His workaholism sprang from a lifelong effort to bring peace to a troubled world, and his trips abroad were an asset to the secretaries.

On a mission to Greece to clear up a civil war, the staff organized a fun costume party on Christmas Day. When the bearded Greek archbishop arrived, he was seen as another collaborator in costumes and was almost drawn into a beard drawing competition.

Churchill could be conceited. Cecily & # 39; Chips & # 39; Gemmell, who took a dictation from his own speech in the Battle of Britain, typed & # 39; Never in the field of human consciousness & # 39; a when there's & # 39; human conflict & # 39; should have been – and Churchill said: & # 39; It is clear that you have refuge. & # 39; I heard one of the greatest quotes in the world. & # 39;

WORKING WITH WINSTON by Cita Stelzer (Head of Zeus £ 20, 400 pages)

WORKING WITH WINSTON by Cita Stelzer (Head of Zeus £ 20, 400 pages)

Many of his secretaries were well-educated girls who were poorly educated, and Churchill was shocked by their lack of general knowledge and terrible spelling. "You don't have a word in 50 right!" he barked at Cecily on her first day.

But when she typed in an improved second draft, he said, "I knew you could do it." Under the wildness was a deep well of unsentimental goodness.

These days, the Human Resources department is refreshing to discover the simple process for landing a job for Churchill.

First you were checked by a secretary who already works for him. Then she would send you to be "interviewed" by the man himself.

When Jane Portal (who was later to become the future Archbishop of Canterbury's mother Justin Welby) was interviewed, Churchill went around her and said nothing. For Jane, it felt like she was a heifer being inspected at a sale. Then he said, "You will do." & # 39;

Another dedicated secretary, Grace Hamblin, was asked by Lady Churchill if she had any ideas on how to quietly destroy Winston's Graham Sutherland portrait, which he painted for his 80th birthday and which he detested.

Hamblin said she had a brother nearby who would do that. So we took it to his house in the middle of the night and burned it in his garden. . . It was a deadly secret. & # 39;

This was far beyond the usual secretarial duties, but as this fascinating book shows, Churchill's secretaries would do anything to make the big man happy.

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