BBC Churchill's Bodyguard (2005) s01e01 Episode Script

Walter Meets Winston

I am ex-Detective Inspector Walter Henry Thompson and was Winston Churchill's bodyguard for a period of nearly 18 years.
In almost any piece of film you'll see of Britain's great wartime leader, this is the man in the background.
Anonymous and secret.
Until now, his critical role in saving the life of Churchill from series of attacks has been hidden from the wider public.
He himself intended that he would never be taken alive, and he issued direct instructions to me I was to have his 45 colt , fully loaded He intended to use every bullet but one on the enemy.
The last one he saved for himself.
After the war, Walter Thompson's censored book told just part of the story.
His full memoirs were suppressed even by Churchill himself.
Only now can we recount the number of assassination attempts for Churchill's life, many foiled by Walter.
This series with unique access to these incredible memoirs reveals for the first time the story of Walter's life with Winston.
Together they traveled thousands of miles on precarious journeys to meet Stalin and Roosevelt and other world leaders.
Together they rode with Lawrence of Arabia dodge German assassins Were nearly shot down by enemy aircraft, lone gunmen, U-Boats and IRA hitmen.
This is a story of the political upheavals of the 20th century Churchill's constant brushes with death and the role played by an ex post office messenger in preventing an early end to his life.
With this weapon he was a dead shot anyone that came within range of this weapon would never survive.
Before World War I, Britain was not always as peaceful as is often thought today.
In January 1911 the streets of London rang with gun fires as the police and soldiers besieged a gang of anarchists.
Rare newsreel reveals how a bullet missed Winston Churchill's head by inches.
In the crowd was Walter Thompson, he had no idea how this chance encounter would change his life.
This first Dangerous Liaisons set a course for two men of hugely contrasting backgrounds to spend almost 18 amazing years together, sharing threats some of which resonate even to this day.
And which as we reveal later would bring them face to face with IRA men fighting for Irish Home Rule.
Neither Walter Thompson nor Winston Churchill needed to be at Sydney Street in London's East End on that Monday in January 1911 but both were there.
Watching as the police besieged a gang of Latvian anarchists.
These had already killed three policemen in a botched jewel robbery and were now determined to fight it out.
It was soon apparent that the gang's Mauser automatic pistols were more than a match for the shotguns of the Metropolitan Police.
So the youthful Home Secretary, 35 years old Winston Churchill agreed to the deployment of a platoon of Scots Guards.
He was unable to resist the temptation to go along himself During the morning he arrived.
Resplendent in top hat and overcoat with a fine Astrakhan collar.
It was a great photo opportunity for the ambitious young politician and by the evening this film was being shown in a theater in the center of London.
Watching from the appreciative crowd which had gathered to enjoy the fun Walter could not have even begun to anticipate how intimately his life and career would become involved with that of Churchill.
I ran there and shoulder through to the front of front of the excited crowd Shots rattled from the old house, and rifle fire clattered back into it from the police and guardsmen some concealed on roofs opposite, others kneeling on one knee in the open street like redcoats at the Battle of Waterloo Suddenly we in the streets saw smoke streaming from the besieged house then flames lit the now silent windows.
All those inside died in the fire.
Before the billowing smoke filled the street and cloud in my view, i got my first glimpse of Winston Churchill.
The man whose safety was to become the dominating fact of my life.
But he was in great danger at that moment I watched the gate as the man who was later to become my boss at Scotland Yard were shot at.
Sir Patrick Quinn was standing behind Winston when a bullet from the gunman was fired through his hat.
It was a near miss for Winston who was well to the front.
That bullet could've killed Churchill in 1911 that time Walter was powerless to protect him But a decade later the situation would be very different.
Like most people in the crowd, Walter knew about the flamboyant politician I had heard a grea deal about him, much of which was inspired by his outspoken manner which many people resented and to a degree disliked.
This resentment I'm afraid, influenced me.
and without any real reason, i did not like him.
At this stage in of their lives there could not been a greater contrast between the backgrounds of Winston and Walter.
One a member of one of the most influential and aristocratic families in the country, the other of a solidly of working-class background.
Walter Thompson was born in 1890 in Brixton in South London.
He was one of 13 children, and his father, James Richard Thompson was an insurance agent whose family had lived in South London for many years.
His mother, Rebecca was of a jewish origin.
Typical of his class, Walter began working shortly after he went to school.
At the age of 8 i took a part-time job of cleaning windows and brass work in a shop.
He then had to run the three miles to school so as not to be late.
This caused me to fall asleep in school.
To make up for my educational loss I went to night classes for French and sorthand after i began a full-time work at the age of fourteen.
Walter's formal education had finished and he went to work for the post office as a telegraph messenger boy.
In addition to his night classes like many boys his background he joined the Boys brigade and learned such skills as military drill and life-saving.
It was all very different from the early life of Winston Spencer Churchill.
Born in Blenheim Palace on the 30th November 1874, he was a direct descendant of John Churchill The Duke of Marlborough for whom the great palace had been built and the first cousin of the then Duke.
His father, Lord Randolph Churchill was a brilliant orator and had enjoyed a brief but spectacular political career becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer before dying at the age of 46 in 1895.
Winston's father was always a distant figure, but the boy was devoted to his mother.
Jenny was an American from the wealthy Jerome family and reputed to have American Indian blood in her veins.
One of the great beauties of Victorian society, she was friend of many of the leading figures in British life, including politicians, writers and artists.
His mother's network of contacts was just one of of the silver spoons with which Winston was born and they frequently helped his career.
After a conventional upper-class education at Harrow school, which bored him, and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the young Winston spent little more than three years in the army.
before the lieu of politics made him resign his commission.
But during this brief time he saw action in Cuba, Northwest Frontier of India, The Sudan and The Boer War.
He showed himself courageous even foolhardy under fire and a great lover of adventure and danger.
In 1900 he had won a seat in parliament as a conservative, but in 1904 the bumptious young MP caused a sensation when he crushed the floor to join the Liberal Party.
His reward, a year later was to become junior minister, Undersecretary of State for the colonies.
For Winston with his family background and contacts the opportunities must have seemed limitless.
For Walter, the opportunity to break out from from his humble beginnings would take a bit longer.
But once the opportunity came, the consequences would be far reaching.
The next time Churchill's life was in mortal danger, Walter would be the man responsible for saving him.
In 1908, still seven years before Walter Thompson first met Winston Churchill the ambitious young politician gained both promotion and a wife.
In April joined the cabinet as President of The Board of Trade.
At 33 he was the youngest cabinet minister for more than a century, and obviously, the rising star.
The weekend of his promotion, Winston spent at his mother's house Clementine Hozier, with her mother as chaperone was one of the guests.
Four months later, they were engaged, and in September, as Churchill himself wrote, I'm married and lived happily ever after.
By this time, Walter was working in the rag trade in East End of London.
In 1911 he married Kate, whom he met in the firm's typing pool.
He was a fit and athletic young man, would joined a physical culture club I was tall and strongly built, and practiced wrestling and jiu-jitsu in spare moments.
He also played football for his company.
- I was a good soccer player, and I was offered a chance to turn professional for the famous Arsenal football team.
But my mother a strict Victorian with fixed ideas of what constituted a worthwhile career refused to give her permission.
Towards the end of 1910, came the event which was to changed Walter's life forever.
In my lunch hour I took a stroll along clerkenwell road where there was a street market.
by one of the barrows, i saw two men attacking a lone policeman I grabbed of the men, he back healed me I pushed his arm up his back and held on.
The policeman was now blowing his wistle, and that sound drew other constables.
I helped to get the man along to the police station.
A few days later, a letter arrived, asking me to call at the station.
There, in front of a line of constables, an officer presented me with a silver pocket watch.
"You're just the type of man we want in the force" he said "Think about it.
" Walter did.
And urged on by a friendly police sergeant he made his decision.
Without telling my mother, i applied to join London's Metropolitan Police.
From about 70 attended the medical examination, 10 of us were chosen.
After training, i was assigned to Paddington Green Police Station.
And for 16 months i walked the beat in Bayswater.
A good class residential area in which incidently, Winston Churchill lived.
Walter may well have seen Winston as he walked the beat for he was now, one of the country's leading politicians.
After 18 months at The Home Office, Winston had moved to the Admiralty, his dream job.
Walter had to wait untill the end of his 16 months of probationary period as a Constable, before he too was given a crucial opportunity.
One day a sergeant told me, that Scotland Yard, the headquarters of The Metropolitan Police was asking for men to fill vacancies in the special branch, a departement of detectives who dealt with political subversives.
The sergeant explained, that though members of the Special Branch might tackle exciting assignments chasing spies, Much of the works were routine work consisted of attending meetings of anarchists and others who had reasons to dislike the British government.
After examination and interview, i was transfered to Scotland Yard.
There followed 10 weeks of training in shadowing uspects and observation then for two years, i was a a probationer.
Although these last years before the World War I are now seen as a golden age, they were surprisingly tumultuous.
In addition to the anarchists and spies mentioned by Walter, Britain had its own protest movement, The Suffragettes.
Determined to gain the vote for women, and rebuffed by male-dominated Parliament, The suffragettes began using shock tactics, noisy demonstrations, chaining themselves to public buildings, and well-publicized hunger strikes to prove their seriousness.
Walter soon got to know the leaders of the movement well.
Indeed I have cursed the most heartily , hour upon hour I used to spend loitering outside the suffragette HQ in King's way to report their comings and goings, and to trail them with a colleague.
Once you start to trail a person, you have to go on till the quarry is safely askance for the night.
So it can be a heartbreakingly and exciting business at times.
Just occasionally, there were compensations.
The funniest memory i have of the suffragettes When I was ordered to follow a certain enterprising young suffragette whose activities were then earning her some celebrity.
she realized that she was being followed, and as it began to pour with rain, she looked around at me in an inquiring manner.
So, sensing her difficulty, I walked beside her holding my umbrella over her, eventually escorting her home.
I quite enjoyed that excessively moist day.
But along these routine and occasionally enjoyable jobs, an increasing amount of Walter's time was to be taken up with tracking down spies.
for tension was growing rapidly between the great powers of Europe.
And many people including Winston hurchill were sure that it would only be a matter of time before some spark lit the unstable tinner During the later part of 1913, the Special Branch began to take an interest in the activities of a large number of foreign agents who were in touch with the goverment of Kaiser William.
Gradually a huge dossier was compiled, covering all parts of the country untill practically every ordinary agent had been cornered and assessed that his or her value.
And this led as we intended to the principles the only ones who really mattered.
The watching was never relaxed untill the day war broke out.
and had the crisis not come then, might have continued unrelaxed for many years.
But in the gloriously hot summer of 1914, The murder of an obscure austro-hungarian Arch Duke in an obscure part of the Balkan, provided the spark which set Europe ablaze.
Walter and his coleagues imediately went to work.
Within twelve hours followed the declaration of war on 4th of August 1914 The German espionage system in Great Britain had been smashed.
Every special branch men was waiting at The Yard, While the crowds were cheering outside the palace, we were receiving list of names and addresses and our instruction regarding the arrests.
I know all the arrests I carried out were peaceful enough, and i expected others were the same.
Counter espionage and security work, were to occupy most of Walter's time for the next four years.
At first he was based in London, largely following up reports of spy.
The public wanted to help, but they nearly broke our hearts.
Ten letters in every thousands were of the slightest value, altough every single case however absurd, had to be investigated.
Many nights i've stayed out of bed, observing some perfectly law-abiding citizen whom someone had made innuendos against in a letter.
For Winston, the outbreak of war with its opportunities for excitement and action seemed like a dream come true.
His enthusiasm knew no bounds, as Walter was soon to witness.
For for early in 1950, one of Winston's detective, were given time off, and Walter was sent to guard him.
The day was uneventful ecept for one incident which I afterwards i realized, was a historic one.
During the afternoon, Winston left the admiralty buiding trough a side door I followed as he and a small group of officials, walked across the vast shale square of Horse Guards Parade.
to a spot made private by a square of canvas screen.
Inside, small mounds of earth had been constructed and a number of toy vehicles fitted with caterpillar tracks, lay here and there on the ground.
With deep interest, Winston watched while the toys were sent trundling over the mouths.
He asked for small obstacle to be put in their way, and he smiled with pleasure when the little cars easily climbed them.
Excitedly he said, "we can put a gun on vehicles like that.
" In the following months, he demanded a design for an armored caterpillar tractors capable of crossing trenches and crushing obstacles.
Because this was considered outside the Admiralty's province, the experts at first ignored him.
He went ahead and on his own authority had the first tank built.
Walters account is a slight oversimplification.
But there is no doubt that without Winston's drive and enthusiasm, the first tanks named after the water tanks they were disguised as before being sent overseas, would never have reached the front within barely a year.
After the war, a Royal Commission inquiring into the invention of the tank stated "It was primarily due to the receptivity, courage and driving force of The Right Honourable Winston Spencer Churchill that the general idea of the use of such an instrument of warfare as the tank was converted into practical shape.
That historic day, when the idea of the tank was born on The Horse Guard Parade was the first time Walter and Winston had met and it might well had been the last.
Within months of his first meeting with Walter Thompson in 1915 Churchill's political career seems to have gone into freefall.
The chances of him regaining high office and needing a bodyguard again must have appeared remote.
For in November, blamed for the failure of The Gallipoli campaign he was moved from the admiralty and sideline to the virtually meaningless post of Chancellor of The Duchy of Lancaster.
After six months of depressing inertia, Winston resigned rejoined the army and went to France to command a battalion in the trenches.
In July 1917 his old friend and Ally, David Lloyd George became Prime Minister.
He immediately brought Winston back into the government as minister of munitions.
Just after Winston's career had seemed have come to a halt Walter's too saw a fundamental change.
In February 1916 I received | nan instant order to report for duty to Southampton.
Here I joined six others of my department who worked in a large baggage shed at the docks.
The shed was fitted with a general office, a search room and an interrogation room.
And we had to examine 5.
000 persons of all descriptions, each week including diplomats.
Walter was to work in Southampston untill the end of the war and it was in the course of this, that he saw Winston.
It was on the 11th of November 1918 the day the armistice was signed.
Early that morning I arrived in London from Southampton, bringing with me a suspected spy.
I handed the man over at the yard and went into Whitehall.
A great crowd was gathered there and as maroons banged 11 a.
m.
to signal the end of hostilities, they began to sing.
the people gave way as an open car pushed its way out the Admiralty a roar went up "IT'S WINNY!!!" I was pressed close to the cart art and saw Churchill's standing up in the back.
Tears streamed down his face as they frequently did in emotional moments, The crowd fell silent.
Churchill said "We had won the war 'but now we need your help to win the peace.
With the hostilities ended, Winston was brought back into cabinet as Secretary of State for War.
Among his task, was overseeing the demobilization of the troops who had been fighting in France.
And it was while he was doing this, he again, ran into Walter.
I was on special duty at Southampton, the war over, troops were returning home from the continent of Europe and being replaced by other men who had seen no fighting.
A large numbers of these new men living in a camp near Southampton refused to go overseas.
Winston came in Southampton on a ship from France and hearing of the men's attitude, demanded to be taken to the camp.
I told to go with his party.
and on the way he looked at me curiously a number of times, then said "Ive seen you before.
Where have i met you? I told him and he immediately recalled the day he had watched the toy tanks being tested.
When Churchill stood up to talk to them, /Nthe mutinous soldiers booed but as he spoke they quietened.
He pointed out that they were needed for an essential job, to act as an Army of Occupation Most seems satisfied with his explanation, but a few continued to murmur.
Angry now, Winston let fly "You will go whether you like it or not!" he shouted.
And if necessary, at the point of the bayonets of the men who have been fighting.
There was no further trouble soon afterwards the troops sailed.
Shortly after this encounter, Walter return to London and was assigned to close protection duty, guarding senior members of the government.
For the coming of peace had not brought and end to the problems and hostilities which surrounded the British government.
The most urgent, and potentially the most deadly was close to home.
Just a few miles away across the sea, in what was in effect, Britain's oldest colony Ireland.
Demands of Irish Home Rule by the largely Roman Catholic majority had been growing for centuries with revolts and terrorist outrages occurring regularly.
In 1914 the Protestants of Ulster had almost begun a civil war to prevent the passing of Home Rule government of which Winston was a senior member.
The situation was only saved when both sides got something more urgent to worry about.
The outbreak of major war in 1940.
Thousands of Irishmen volunteered to fight bravely and loyally for Britain throughout the conflict But the extreme nationalist party Sinn Féin won most of the Irish seats in the first election after the war.
Rather than take up these seats at Westminster Sinn Féin set up its own assembly, The Dáil Éireann.
and it's military wing, the IRA or Irish Republican Army began attacks on the Irish police.
The troubles escalated with the British army drawn in to restore peace.
soon there was a full-scale guerrilla war against British rule with atrocities being committed on both sides.
As Minister of War Winston was inevitably a prime target for the IRA.
And it's hatred of him was greatly increased when he authorized the recruitment of an anti guerrilla force the Black and Tans from unemployed former soldiers.
The Black and Tans met terror with terror atrocity with atrocity nevertheless the situation rapidly spiraled out of control.
And by the end of 1920, British rule had more or less collapsed.
Walter had been closely involved in these momentous events for in February 1920 he had been appointed the personal bodyguard of Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
At first he admired the Welsh wizard enormously, particularly for his courage in the face of IRA threats.
But Walter soon found a contrast between the Prime Minister's happy family life, and his obsessive pursuit of mistresses difficult to accept.
After a few months, disgusted, was withdrawn at my own request.
Before he left Walter had particularly dislike one aspect of the job.
One which would return to haunt him almost exactly 20 years later.
The Irish were making threats against the Prime Minister's life and there was only too much reason too much reason to take these seriously.
Never did I have a more disagreeable or nerve-wracking duty than keeping watch and ward, for lurking assassins during the hours of darkness at Chequers.
The patrol of the grounds which are large and full of dense shrubberies bushes and trees provided some eerie moments for another officer and i who had to carry out the patrol from dusk to dawn eight hours each.
Every twig i trod on made me think I was surrounded the wings sighed and stirred the bushes and the moon made dark moving shadows.
In such a garden, one could be stalked and murdered with the greatest of ease.
Several times each hour, I seemed to stumble on an intruder only to find him a shadow.
Time and again i could have sworn that someone was crouching behind me but found nothing No one was more relieved than I when dawn broke.
So Walter was happy to get back to normal security duties but this was to be short-lived.
Having arrived at Scotland Yard early one morning at the beginning of 1921 I was called into my chief's office.
"Thompson" he said, "Go to Sussex square Paddington and take over the protection of Mr.
Churchill.
" For a moment I just looked at him, I hesitated then I said "Must I sir?" "Yes.
" he said firmly.
"Go and see how you get on for a couple of weeks.
" I went feeling I went feeling none too happy at the prospect but thinking that it might only be for two weeks.
Walter found his new charge brusque and unapproachable The hours were incredibly long, since Churchill often stayed at the House of Commons until the early hours of the morning I longed for the two weeks to end, when they did I marched into my chief's office at Scotland Yard and said "I'd like very much to be relieved of this protection duty, Sir.
" I tried to make it sound more like a demand than a request The chief looked up, and he was smiling.
"You don't want it then Thompson.
" he said.
"No, Sir.
His smile grew a bit sadistic.
"Whether you like it or not, it's yours.
" he said.
"Winston has asked for you to be with him, permanently.
" Walter was deeply depressed by this development but appreciated that he had an important job to do No one seriously believed Churchill's life was in danger from suffragettes no matter how much they despised him.
The Irish Republicans however, were gunmen who seemed to mean bussiness And there was every reasons to believe that Churchill who was hated for his support of the Black and Tans was high on the IRA's murder list.
This suspicion soon proved true the IRA were already planning to murder him.
From the day early in 1921, that Walter Thompson became Winston Churchill's personal bodyguard he had no doubt, that the IRA was out to get his man.
He was also left in no doubt that Winston meant to play an active role in protecting himself and that his love of danger might well prove almost as big a threat to his security as any direct action.
I informed him that i would take turn and turn about with my junior officer in sleeping at his house.
He was very pleased when i told him of my decision and then suggested that I went all over the house with him.
After showing me the rest of the house Winston took me to his bedroom where I noticed that anyone entering the room would first of all see in front of them, what appeared to be a high black chair Winston drew my attention to this and pointed to his bed the position of which gave him full view of anyone entering the room.
He then showed me the chair with the high back the seat of which had a colt 45, automatic, fully loaded "I want you to look after that for me, Thompson, 'and see hat it is always in good shape.
no one else will be allowed to touch it.
He then lifted up some tapestry, which covered the back of the high-back chair showing underneath a thick piece of plating which the tapestry had been made to cover.
the piece of steel was fixed to the back of the chair.
"Now Thompson, you guard me from below and if they come up here I shall receive them behind the steel plate.
'No one will have a walkover ith us both on the lookout.
I did not know at that time that Winston was a dead shot with the colt as well as with a rifle These were his favourite weapons, the Malaga rifle, 38 Webley Scott, and the 45 Colt automatic.
These is really his favourite weapon.
And with this weapon he was a dead shot I remember the latter part of the war, he fired at a target and it was only one bullet was not in the bullseye.
Anyone that came within range of this weapon would never survive.
When the troubles began, Winston was a firm believer that the IRA must be militarily defeated before there could be any thought of a peace settlement.
But by early 1921, he had realized that this would never be achieved without virtually laying waste to the country.
So in June, when the Prime Minister put out peace feelers to Sinn Féin Churchill loyally supported his friend and leader.
Throughout this critical period, Walter was on tenterhooks.
My hand was never far from my revolver which I kept in my right hand jacket pocket.
In contrast, Winston seemed serenely imperturbable and his willingness to expose himself to danger must have kept Walter permanently anxious.
He rarely made any remark to me about the peril in which he stood but one conversation i do remember.
He had decided to walk across from the Colonial Office to The House of Commons and as my colleague was away at lunch, i was alone on duty with it.
I remarked on this fact.
Turning to me, Winston said with a wry smile "You can look into my back, Thompson, I'll attempt to he front.
" In October, the Sinn Féin delegation arrived to dicuss Home Rule and this included Michael Collins, the brilliant guerilla leader of the IRA on whose head the British had placed a substantial reward.
Like many Britons, Walter found it hard to see his leaders negotiating with a man who was seen as a bloodthirsty terrorist I had seen Michael Collins coming down the steps of number 10 Downing Street some days before Winston had decided on this dramatic stroke It was strange to think that this Stern Irishman was indeed the gunman for whom at that moment, every soldier and policeman in Ireland were looking.
As colonial secretary, Winston was to be one of the four British negotiators but as Walter observed from his wingside seat, he inevitably played an active role behind the scene as well.
Winston's first intervention was typically direct.
Winston had decided that the leaders of the two islands must meet and so he invited each of them to pay a secret visit to inreview him personally at the Colonial office.
I was instructed to make arrangements for both men to enter the colonial office at exactly the same time, but by separate entrances.
At appointed hour, the two leaders arrived.
One was admitted by the main entrance, the other was letting to the Colonial office through a door leading to the Foreign office yard.
Sir James Craig was shown into an empty room by a permanent official acting under instructions from Winston.
Moments later, Michael Collins was ushered into the same room by Winston himself who having let him in, step back and locked the door on the two opponents.
Never before had north and South Ireland, as personified by the dower Ulstermen the debonair lad from Cork stood face to face alone.
Certainly the pair did not emerge arm in arm when their little tete-a-tete concluded half an hour later.
But certainly after fortnight, Michael Collins and Arthur Griffiths were meeting the comittee of the British cabinet in London.
Walter may have slightly over exaggerated Winston's role in getting the talks going but there can be no doubt, that the personal relationship he established with Michael Collins played a considerable part in achieving a settle But one of the meetings the question did arise regarding the price on Collins' head.
Collins felt very bitter about it and reproached Winston saying that he had been hunted day and night like some animal with a price of five thousands pounds on his head and this sum was to be paid whether he was captured dead or alive.
This gave Winston the opportunity for which no doubt he had been waiting during Collins outburst "What are you grumbling about? 'five thousand pounds was a good price to pay.
" He then took down from the wall, a framed notice and showed Collins This was a notice which the Boers had put out during the South African wars offering 25 ponds for Winston, dead or alive.
"You are fortunate," said Winston 'they only offered 25 pound for me.
" Collins undoubtedly saw the funny side of the two prices and from an outburst of anger, laughter resulted.
And in the end, a treaty of peace was signed between the parties.
Peace may have been signed, but it did not bring peace in Ireland almost predictably, Éamon de Valera, the president of Sinn Féin rejected the terms negotiated by Collins and civil war broke put in the south.
Before it ended, in victory for de Valera, Michael Collins is dead gunned down in an ambush and the civil war could easily have spilt over into britain to claim Winston For in June 1922 came an event which showed that British leaders were still very much at risk.
One afternoon I was watching the Thames traffic passed the House of Commons I was then in a small room and could see out from the window Here we used to wait for the various ministers we were guarding Waiting is a most boring job even though you eventually get used to it.
I went out for a stroll and near the exit door I passed a creed machine which was ticking over.
Normally I did not pay much attention to it but for some reason i decided to have a look and saw tapped-out flash, Sir Henry Wilson was shot.
breathlessly i watched the Creed tapping out history.
Dead today outside his home in Eaton square.
It had come.
Sinn Féin had made good their threat to use the weapon of assassination on English soil The IRA had caught up with the Ulsterman who'd comanded the British Army in Ireland in 1940 and then go on to become chief of the Imperial General Staff during the Troubles It was a killing which would have been all the more shocking for Walter for he would have to know Sir Henry while he was guarding Lloyd George He accompanied the Prime Minister on at least two conferences abroad the first time he had ever been overseas and as can be seen from this film of a trip to Berlin to meet the French General Staff Sir Henry Wilson was with Lloyd George with Walter in close attendance For Walter, it was all getting too close for comfort and it seemed all too likely that the IRA next target would be the man he was now responsible for guarding.
The man who had been instrumental in negotiating an unpopular treaty.
For added protection Winston was given an armor-plated rolls-royce for his journeys Walter rode beside the chauffeur.
To make the would-be assassins task more difficult I tried to varied our very route to the House of Commons choosing a different one each day.
But as so often, his charge was not helpful.
He insisted on going through Hyde Park and the park covered half the distance Winston lived at Sussex Square, just north the Victoria gate One of the few which allowed motor traffic into the park.
His room at the Colonial Office was in Whitehall which the obvious exit was by Apsley House at Hyde Park corner.
To get from one gate to the other there were at that times only two obvious routes.
The first is to take a sharp left on entering the park go along the north carriageway to the Cumberland gate at Marble Arch and then down one of the roads parallel to Park Lane to Hyde Park Corner.
The other was to go straight down to the serpentine lake and along its north side to Apsley House and Hyde Park Gate.
Along both routes, there was lots of covers from trees and bushes and traffic had to slow as it entered the park and stop for other traffic before it left Walter was well aware that the park was an ideal place for an ambush and so with the IRA.
One morning when we were driving through Hyde Park I noticed two men who were standing back from the pavement suddenly give a signal to someone standing among the trees some little distance ahead taking my revolver from my pocket, i saw that Winston had also noticed the men and the signal morever he had evidently read the same significance into the gesture Perfectly calm he suggested that the car should be stopped.
"If they want trouble, they can have it.
" Churchill murmured with a smile.
But it was not any part of my duty to pander to the adventurous wim for a hand-to-hand scrap in Hyde Park.
I leant over to the chauffeur "Step on it drive like the devil!!" i smacked Walter pushed Churchill down in the back and shielded him with his body he held him there roughly until they were out of range of the would be assassin struggling with an angry Churchill Once he was allowed to sit up Churchill bellowed at Walter "don't ever do that again!" It took guts to stand up to Churchill and a lesser man might have let him have his way and leap out of the car for a possibly fatal shootout with an unknown number of gunmen.
It was also guts which Walter was to need many more times in the future.
Sometimes he would have to protect Winston as much from his own impetuousity and love of danger as from any sprecific threat.
And sometimes it would be violently hostile crowds and the possibility of a lurking fanatic which would give Walter his nightmares as Churchill'a bodyguard.
For on the first occasion that the two men went abroad together it was to the seething political cauldron of the Middle East.
There Walter was confronted with a completely alien and potentially lethal environment and rescued from disaster by none other the Lawrence of Arabia