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Open house at the British Embassy


Lunch with Winston Churchill
John Julius Norwich Writer
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I remember we did two things while we were there during those three days. We went to see the Laurence Olivier Henry V, which had just come on, and my father took me to lunch at 10 Downing Street. And that was wonderful because there was Winston Churchill; I had met him several times before as a small child. He was a great friend of my parents but I hadn't seen him for a long time and now there he was at number 10 wearing his siren suit, which were these dungarees that he'd designed himself made of velvet I need hardly tell you. And looking – it was like my mother said – he always looked exactly like the good little pig that had built his house of bricks.

And I remember I put my foot in it over lunch because this was the time of the flying bombs, the V1s and the V2s and the Prime Minister turned to me and said, 'And I trust your college is doing... is supporting the new bombing raids.' And I said, 'Well, fortunately sir, it's not. It's wonderful because we've all been allowed off morning chapel. They don't want too many people gathered in one place, so morning chapel is out for a little bit. So we're terribly lucky.' 'I am very sorry to hear that you have allowed German involvement to have interfered with your daily schedule. It's very important that boys should go to their regular daily worship. I think you should protest and demand the headmaster that morning chapel should be instantly reinstated.' So I obviously sort of... my father leapt to the rescue and there it was. It was alright in the end. He tipped me £2 which was the largest tip I think I've ever been given by anybody. Normally you were lucky if you got one.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Winston Churchill

Duration: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018