About & History

About the Churchill Society of New Orleans:

The Churchill Society exists to preserve the memory of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (November 30, 1874-January 24, 1965). He was arguably the greatest Britain of all time. He provides a model of courage and of the ideals that made Britain – and the United States – the great countries that they are. He is best known for his leadership of Britain in World War II: with his unmatched command of the English language he gave confidence to the British people that they could successfully resist the overwhelming forces of Hitler’s Germany when Britain alone stood unconquered in Europe. In addition to his skill as a statesman and orator, Churchill served as an officer in the British Army; he wrote many excellent books, and was a fine painter of landscapes. He received the Nobel Prize in literature; his paintings won prizes, and the great friendship of him for Americans, and of Americans for him, resulted in his being the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.

The Churchill Society of New Orleans was founded in 2003 by Hill Riddle, Jr., Ted Martin and Bill Reeves. The Society is loosely affiliated with the International Churchill Society (ICS), a worldwide organization devoted to preserving the memory of Churchill’s accomplishments. The ICS publishes a very fine quarterly known as the Finest Hour, a title calling to mind Churchill’s brilliant leadership in World War II.

The International Churchill Society’s official website is WinstonChurchill.org

Hill Riddle served as President from 2004-2005, presiding over the Society’s first Birthday Dinner. Ted Martin served as President from 2005-2008, an auspicious time during which board member Betsy Stout inaugurated an annual Essay Contest, open to all metropolitan area high school students, and Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandys joined the Society for lunch and a lecture. J Gregg Collins assumed leadership from 2008 to the present, and together with board members Eean McNaughton and Herschel Abbott, a partnership was forged with the National WWII Museum to present the first Churchill Symposium in September of 2011.

www.nationalww2museum.org : The website of the National World War II museum in New Orleans.

The Society is managed by a Board of Directors, also known as the Cabinet. Current Board Members include the President (Prime Minister), and treasurer, pro tem, J Gregg Collins, William “Bill” Reeves, Secretary, Ted Martin, Hill Riddle, Betsy Stout, Herschel Abbott, Christopher Tidmore, Walter Wolf, John Wilson, Jacqueline Gamble and Ben Capshaw.

In January, 2016 The Orlin Russel Corey Lecture Fund was created to honor the memory of  Orlin Russel Corey, an extraordinary man.  After serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, he became a renowned theatrical producer and director.  He founded Everyman Players, a touring classical troupe.  A nurturer of talents, he served on many boards including the board of the NOCCA Institute, where he also served as President.  A lover of history, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Churchill Society of New Orleans, and he created solo performances at the World War II Museum and the Churchill Society commemorating our soldiers.  The Orlin Russel Corey Lecture Fund provides the necessary expenses for the bi-annual Orlin Russel Corey Lecturer at the World War II Museum.

2013 Board of Churchill Society

Pictured from left to right, (the late) Orlin Russel Corey, Herschel Abbott, Christopher Tidmore, Hill Riddle, Ted Martin, Bill Reeves, Betsy Stout, J Gregg Collins


Before World War II

Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the second son of the Duke of Marlborough. As a second son, Lord Randolph had to live by his wits, and he became successful in British politics, but died young in 1895. Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, was a beautiful American from New York. Partly thanks to his mother, Churchill was very fond of the United States, and often visited here.

As a young man, Winston Churchill sought to be wherever the fighting was, serving as a soldier or a war correspondent: he observed fighting in Cuba, India, the Sudan and South Africa, and often was himself in the midst of the fighting. He wrote books describing the military campaigns in which he participated, and these efforts show that he had early mastered the art of writing. His courage under fire in the Boer War in South Africa, and daring escape from a Boer prison camp, made him famous at home, and led to his being elected to Parliament for the first time, in 1900. He served there almost continuously until 1964.

In Parliament, Churchill quickly rose to prominence. After switching from the Conservative to the Liberal Party, he served in several cabinet posts before the First World War. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he had Britain well-prepared for the war at sea. During the First World War, he continued as First Lord of the Admiralty, later fought in the trenches in France, and returned to serve as Minister of Munitions.

During the 1920s Churchill held several cabinet posts after returning to the Conservative Party, most prominently as Chancellor of the Exchequer, until the party’s defeat in 1929. When the Conservative Party returned to power, Churchill’s differences with Party leadership over India and the appeasement of Hitler caused him to be excluded from the cabinet throughout the 1930s.

Churchill made his living as a writer, and he wrote prodigiously during the years when Britain was not at war. During the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote The World Crisis, a magisterial history of World War I and its immediate aftermath, in 6 volumes. He also wrote numerous magazine articles, a magnificent biography of his ancestor, the first Duke of Marlborough, and a charming memoir, My Early Life.

Churchill married Clementine Hozier in 1908, and their marriage survived all the vicissitudes of Churchill’s life, until his death in 1965. When travels separated them, they exchanged letters and notes that show how devoted they were to each other. They had 5 children, one of whom died as a child, and one of whom, his youngest child, Mary, born in 1922, lived until 2014. They have numerous living descendents. In 1922, Churchill bought Chartwell, a country home in Kent, where he spent a lot of time with his family. There he laid bricks and kept animals, while all the time writing.

Churchill also became an artist in middle age. He entered some contests anonymously and won prizes. His canvasses are treasured. He wrote, “Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end.”

During the 30s, the British and French governments, hoping to avoid another war, failed to oppose German expansion. Churchill saw from the beginning that this was a futile policy, and often spoke out eloquently against it. He kept in touch with friends all over to be fully informed of what was happening in Europe. the last and most disgraceful concession to Hitler took place in 1938, when Chamberlain, hoping for “peace in our time”, agreed not to oppose Germany’s conquest of Czechoslovakia. Churchill commented: “The German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course.” Finally, in 1939, when Germany attacked Poland, Britain and France recognized their treaty obligations and declared war on Germany. The Second World War had begun.

World War II

Churchill’s warnings about Hitler were now seen as prophetic.  Chamberlain was obliged to ask him to join the government and to offer him the post of First Lord of the Admiralty with a seat in the War Cabinet.  In that role, Churchill played an important part in the first 8 months of the war, the so-called “Phony War”.  While Germany prepared to attack, the only noticeable action was at sea.  Correctly anticipating Hitler’s intentions, Churchill urged a pre-emptive occupation of the neutral Norwegian iron-ore port of Narvik and the iron mines in Kiruna, Sweden.  However, Chamberlain and the rest of the War Cabinet disagreed, and the operation was delayed, thus allowing a successful German invasion of Norway.

Although Churchill while in the cabinet never publicly criticized Chamberlain, popular opinion favored Churchill’s determined leadership. Bowing to the wishes of both parties, Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, and the King asked Churchill to serve as Prime Minister in a coalition government of both parties. Just then, Germany carried out its long planned invasion of Holland, Belgium and France.

Churchill thus became Prime Minister at a time of enormous peril for his country.  The German juggernaut overran Belgium, Holland and France, and they soon surrendered.  British troops were forced to retreat to Dunkirk, where a miraculous flotilla of ships, of all shapes and sizes, rescued most of the army, but not the equipment, from the beaches.

Britain now stood alone.  The United States at that time stayed aloof.  No other country dared to resist Germany. Even in Britain, some –including the prominent Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax – favored negotiating a peace with ascendant Germany. Churchill, however, refused to consider a negotiating with Germany. Even Chamberlain now agreed that making concessions to Hitler would not guarantee the preservation of Britain as an independent nation.

During the year and a half that Britain fought on alone, Churchill rallied the people of Britain with his eloquence. Speaking for the first time as Prime Minister,  he said:

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.  We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind.  You ask, what is our policy?  It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.  You ask, what is our aim?  I can answer in one word:  Victory—victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

Hitler’s bombers began a devastating series of attacks on England. Near the start of this “Battle of Britain”, as Churchill called it, he spoke thus to the people of Britain:

“Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.  Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war.  If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free.  Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire last for a thousand years, men will say, ‘This was their finest hour’.”

In the Battle of Britain, German air attacks killed thousands and destroyed large parts of London and other cities.  The British people suffered enormously.  But German planes also suffered great losses, thanks to the courage and skill of the young pilots in Britain’s Royal Air Force.  These brave men inspired Churchill to say, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

In June of 1941 Hitler gave up his plan to invade Britain, and instead turned on the Soviet Union. On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed both British and American bases across the Pacific. Four days later Germany declared war on the United States. Churchill foresaw that the entry of the United States into the war assured the ultimate victory of the Allies. He and President Roosevelt became friendly partners in the war effort. The Anglo-American partnership meant a great deal to Churchill. When he spoke at Roosevelt’s invitation before the combined houses of Congress on December 26, 1941, he said, “I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British instead of the other way round, I might have got here on my own.”

The British finally obtained their first important victory, at El Alamein, in November, 1942. Churchill said in a speech, “This is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

After World War II

After Germany surrendered, in 1945, the war-time coalition government broke up and it was time for an election. To the world’s surprise, Churchill’s party lost; the people preferred a different leader in peacetime. Although Churchill was shocked at the rebuff, he made use of his free time to complete two of his literary masterpieces: first, his 6 volume History of World War II, then the four volumes of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.  In that History, Churchill set out the development of English legal and social institutions that were so important to the success of Britain and the United States, and continue to influence peoples everywhere.

After World War II, Churchill continued to lecture and write on a variety of topics.  He became very concerned about the danger to the world now posed by Stalin and the Soviet Union.  In a 1946 speech that he made in Fulton, Missouri, he coined the term “iron curtain” when he said, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent.”  But Churchill throughout his life remained hopeful that mankind’s good side would triumph over its dark side.  He stated confidently that the Soviet Union would disintegrate, as it did, after his death.

In 1951 Churchill was again elected prime minister, serving until 1955. Britain was no longer a great power, and Churchill was no longer able to have much influence on world affairs. But he continued to be revered by the “English-speaking peoples”. In 1964 President Kennedy made him the first honorary citizen of the United States, an honor that meant a great deal to Churchill. Upon his death in 1965, the Queen decreed that he should have a state funeral.  He was mourned by millions in the streets of London as the funeral procession passed, and the gathering of Heads of State who attended the funeral was one of the largest ever seen.