Churchill and Morocco

As some of you may know, I am a real fan of Winston Churchill.

I have belonged to the International Churchill Society for years. I have attended the International Churchill conferences which occur once a year.  I have devoured many of the 260 plus books that have been written about Churchill.  I have visited all the key Churchill sites in England, including Blenheim Palace, the estate where he grew up, and Chartwell, his home for the later years of his life in Kent southeast of London.  I have been to the Churchill War Rooms Museum that chronicles WWII, located right next to 10 Downey Street in London, the Prime Minister’s address.  I have sought out and found his gravestone, which is not easy, since it unbelievably understated.  It is just like everyone else’s gravestone at St. Martin’s Church in the very small hamlet Bladon near Blenheim.  I have spent time researching Churchill’s youth in the Churchill Archives Center at Churchill College located in Cambridge England.  I am into this man.  I am what is called a Churchillian.

The reason I am so intrigued by him is twofold. First, he is arguably the most important individual in the 20th Century.  You can argue that without him, we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms and liberties that we have today.

Secondly, he fascinates me because of his connection to the work that the Edge Foundation, which I started over 10 years ago, is doing every day – namely, helping young people who have ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Churchill had ADHD. He is wonderful example of a child who had all kinds of problems, yet was able to work through them and make a significant contribution to his country and the world.

One more quick story about Churchill. Recently, this years International Churchill Conference was held in New York City, and I had registered for it six months ago.  However, at the last moment I had a conflict and could not attend.  I asked my daughter Kelsey if she would like to attend, and she said she would!

Kelsey was able to go to one session which featured Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, Celia Sandys. She was interviewing Lady Jane Williams, a woman who had been one of Churchill’s on call secretaries for years when she was quite young.  This was some 75 years ago.  You may be aware that Churchill had very unusual working habits.  He slept and worked at all different times of day, so he had a secretary on duty 24/7.  Each secretary was on duty for an 8-hour portion of the 24 hour day.  Churchill might be up and dictating at 2am and he wanted someone to take his thoughts down at that time.  He was also quite a character, and not the easiest person to work for.  All of which makes for great stories, which she shared with the grand daughter and the audience.  Kelsey loved it, and found it fascinating.

I realize that this is a long prelude to Churchill and Morocco, but I wanted to give you some background as to why I am writing about him while I am in Morocco.

Well, it turns out that one of Churchill’s favorite get-a-ways was Marrakesh, Morocco. He called it “the Paris of the Sahara.”   He also said “Marrakesh is simply the nicest place on earth to spend an afternoon.”  He made many trips to Marrakesh during his lifetime.  Perhaps the most well-known trip was 74 years ago when he convinced Franklin Delano Roosevelt to meet him in Casablanca for

important strategy talks about the Second World War. Churchill was insistent about meeting in Morocco.  FDR relented and agreed to make the trip, by boat at that time in history.  Once there, Churchill further insisted that FDR take a day or two off from their talks for a relaxing trip to Marrakesh.  Churchill claimed that the sunset in Marrakesh was the most moving sunset he had ever witnessed.  He wanted FDR to experience it too.  And so he did.  By all reports FDR too was taken back by the beauty of the sunset.

FDR left the next day to return to Casablanca, but Churchill stayed in Marrakesh an extra day.  Churchill loved to paint, and that day he painted the Atlas mountains, and it was the only day that he painted during WWII.

The hotel FDR and Churchill stayed in Marrakesh was the La Mamounia, which Churchill loved and stayed at every time he come to the city. It is still there today, and it is the most expensive, grandest hotel in Marrakesh.

Needless to say, we had to see the hotel, even though there was no way we were going to pay to spend the night there.  So, the four of us, Kelsey and her husband Brian, Guy and myself, one evening went to the La Mamounia hotel for a before dinner drink and tea, just to experience the atmosphere.

And it was definitely worth the effort. We sat in the luxurious lounge area, near the bar, with a four-piece string combo playing lightly in the background.  I leaned back in my chair and sipped my Moroccan Mint tea, and mused about Winston Churchill.

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Bottom line, Morocco, and specifically Marrakesh was a very important get-a-way for Winston Churchill. This was his favorite place to get R&R.

4 thoughts on “Churchill and Morocco”

  1. I just finished reading Churchill’s brilliant essay on the Joy of Painting for about the 5th time, and then comes this blog from Neil. Clearly Churchill is in the air. I believe that Churchill and Lincoln both saved our civilization and are the world’s most important men of the past two hundred years.. Thanks Neil. I didn’t know about Marrakesh and Churchill.

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