Winston Churchill is probably the most famous man in modern British history. His powerful oratory helped hold the spirit of a nation together at a time when all seemed lost. He is a hero of almost indescribable magnitude, but also a scone-gobbling thief…

He is famous for clever quotes like this, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

But what happens when he travels into the country to visit an old school mate? During tea he is introduced to a young girl who is in the employ of his friend, Lord Cavendish. She helps tend the gardens around the castle. The young girl says something to him that fires up his oratory and becomes part of what is now remembered as a powerful, influential and inspiring speech.

Who was that girl? What did she say during tea that day?

Jennifer Claridge, head gardener at Chatterly Castle in Sussex, England is publishing her memoirs, online, in her blog. She wrote about an encounter she had with Churchill when she was a young girl, recently hired on at the Castle.

Ms Claridge recounts from her diary.

Written June 2nd, 1940:

Winston Churchill came for tea today. He’s an old mucker of Lord Cavendish (they were both rusticated from Harrow for liberating the school goat and letting it loose in the Gymnasia!) Lord C introduced us as my wonderful gardening girls and S and I went as red as apples.

She describes that Churchill looked troubled that day and observed that he “scoffed 14 drop scones in as many minutes.” At one point, Churchill asked her how she managed to continue her daily work each day, in spite of all the horrors of the ongoing war.
The young Miss Claridge responded:

…weeds were our enemy, and we shall fight them on the beaches, and on the land, we shall fight them in the fields and in the hills. We shall never surrender…

Two days later, on June 4th, as Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk, came to a close, Churchill spoke to the House of Commons. His speech described the valor, bravery and perserverance of all those who helped save the lives of over 300,000 soldiers in 9 days.
Nearing the end of his speech, Churchill said this:

…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…

A small conversation at tea, with a burdened and troubled leader became a highlight in a young girl’s life. Her simple words, uttered with conviction, made such an impact on the Prime Minister that he repeated them…

Or in Miss Claridge’s words:

The very cheek of it! Scone-gobbling, knocker-twanging thief! He’s just delivered MY speech to House of Commons…
To read Jennifer Claridge’s entire diary entry, visit her blog at Floreat Chatterly

Learn more about Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician known chiefly for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. He served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, historian, writer, and artist. He was the only British Prime Minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature and the first person to be recognised as an Honorary Citizen of the United States.