Churchill Loved His Uniforms

Having begun his adult life as a soldier, Churchill remained keen on uniforms for the remainder of his life and often wore them in the Second World War. He only wore uniforms he was entitled to and his ranks at that point were honorary.

 

Prime Minister Winston Churchill Crosses the River Rhine, Germany 1945
The Prime Minister Winston Churchill crosses the River Rhine to the east bank, south of Wesel, in an American Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (or Higgins boat) with Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke and US General William Simpson on 25 March 1945. (photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

Churchill is wearing the uniform of a Colonel of the 4th Hussars. He was made an honorary colonel of the regiment in 1941. This is the regiment Churchill joined when he passed out of Sandhurst in 1894 and first entered the army.  He entered as a second lieutenant. (Some accounts claim he entered as a cornet, the equivalent rank in the cavalry to 2nd Lieutenant but that rank had been abolished some years before during a series of reforms in the British Army).

 

An exceptionally handsome and slender nineteen-year-old 2nd Lieutenant Winston Churchill of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in 1895. (IWM)

Winston Churchill was the first Prime Minister of Great Britain to have served in combat and killed the enemy since the Duke of Wellington, who served as Prime Minister from 1828 to 1830.

 

THE VISIT OF THE PRIME MINISTER, WINSTON CHURCHILL TO CAEN, NORMANDY, 22 JULY 1944 (TR 2050) The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Churchill, MP, with the Commander of the British 2nd Army, Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey (right) and the Commander of the 21st Army Group, General Sir Bernard Montgomery. Copyright: © IWM.

Churchill is wearing one of his favorite uniforms, that of an Elder Brother of Trinity House. This organization, which recently celebrated its 500th anniversary, is responsible for harbour pilots in the UK and aids to navigation.

When he became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, Churchill was made an honorary elder brother of Trinity House, the Elder Brothers being the governing board of the organization.

At the beginning of World War One, Churchill was in France on behalf of the government and was wearing the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House. One of the French officers asked a British officer with Churchill what the uniform signified. In mangled French, the British officer replied that Churchill was a member of the Trinity.

 

Churchill in uniform as honorary Air Commodore.

In 1939 Churchill was appointment by King George VI as an honorary Air Commodore. His wings were later granted as another by the Royal Air Force. Churchill had become a pilot before the Great War and was one of the first licensed airplane pilots in Great Britain.

 


Featured image:

Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill  (he is wearing the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House).in conversation with two seated dockers. The conversation took place during Mr Churchill’s tour of the dock area of Liverpool in late September 1941. It was reported that the Prime Minister saw the two workmen having their dinner and, alluding to their well-filled plates, asked: ‘Are you managing to get plenty of food?’ ‘Aye Sir!, we are doing grand, thank you’, was the reply. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Elder Brother of the Trinity

9 August 1941.  Churchill in the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House aboard USS Augusta with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When asked by a senior official of the French government in a hurried meeting in June of 1941 what uniform he was wearing, Churchill explained to the amazement of this man that he was wearing the uniform of the Elder Brother of the Trinity. Churchill insisted on speaking in French but his skills in that language were not on par with his skills using the English language which often caused confusion. His actual words describing his uniform were: “Frère Aîné de la Trinité” which translates as “Elder Brother of the Trinity.”

Another view of Churchill in the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House taken aboard HMS Prince of Wales during the Atlantic Conference.

Churchill often wore the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House, an organization chartered by the British Crown in 1514 to oversea harbour pilots and aids to navigation. He was made an Honorary Elder Brother upon being appointed to the cabinet position of First Lord of the Admiralty in 1913.

 

Trinity House in London. Chartered in 1514 by Henry VIII, the organization has had multifarious functions related to navigation and pilotage over the centuries.

The official website of Trinity House describes the organization thus:

“Today, it maintains In their capacity as Master Mariners, the duties of the Elder Brethren began with the examination and regulation of Pilotage (initially restricted to the River Thames area), and have grown to take on other powers and responsibilities, including the siting and erecting of various aids to navigation (such as lighthouses, buoys, beacons and light-vessels), attendance at Admiralty Court to advise on maritime disputes and affairs, and of course to govern the multi-faceted Corporation of Trinity House, including the administration of the Corporation’s charitable function – the financing and upkeep of the UK’s largest-endowed maritime charity.”

www.trinityhouse.co.uk/about-us

 

Source: Churchill by Roy Jenkins

 

Another view of Churchill in his uniform as an Elder Brother of Trinity House while sitting next to President Roosevelt during the Atlantic Conference. As an aside, if you look closely at FDR’s feet you will see the steel braces he had to strap onto his legs to stand. With these braces holding him up, and with one or two of his military aides or children providing support, he pretended to walk.

This photograph was taken during the Sunday service with equal numbers of Royal Navy and US Navy personnel on 12 August 1941 held aboard HMS Prince of Wales. 

(Left to right, behind FDR and Churchill, are Admiral Ernest King, USN, then Commander-in-Chief US Fleet, US Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshal, General Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Admiral “Betty” Stark, USN Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral of the Fleet  Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy (the professional head of the Royal Navy with the First Lord of the Admiralty, a member of Parliament, having the ultimate authority. This was reorganized in decades after the war. (photo USNA)