In the summer of 1941, legendary British Prime Minister Winston Churchill shook hands with my favorite Canadian veteran, Winston Churchill Parker. Then the two had a little chat.
The impromptu encounter occurred at 10 Downing Street in London, headquarters of the United Kingdom’s government and residence of the prime minister.
The 23-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force Wireless Air Gunner was on his first leave following his arrival in England. Winston, who had been posted to a permanent Royal Air Force station in Oakington near Cambridge, traveled by train to heavily bombed London.
After checking into the Russell Square Hotel, Winston went in search of Reginald Parker, an uncle he’d never met.
“After my parents emigrated from Britain to Calgary, Canada, in the early 20th century, they made a great effort to keep in touch with the family they’d left behind. Before my brother, sister and I were old enough to write letters, we’d draw pictures and scribble as small children do, and Mom would send them to England with her Christmas letters,” the 101-year-old retired Alberta rancher and community leader told me in 2019.
“Then, when we got older and could write letters, we did so. One of the family members we wrote to was my dad’s brother, who was Prime Minister Churchill’s personal chauffeur.”
Winston Churchill Parker on a Mission
Winston walked to the London address his mother had given him for his uncle. However, the woman who answered the door told Winston that his uncle had moved to Scotland Yard, the home of the London police force.
At Scotland Yard, Winston explained to the sergeant at the front desk who he was and why he was there. He was instructed to proceed to a car lot near 10 Downing Street protected by barbed wire and guarded. There Winston should look for a Daimler with a certain license number.
“The sergeant said if I waited at that car my uncle would be coming round to get the prime minister’s vehicle later that afternoon.”
When Winston found the nearby enclosure and didn’t see a guard, he walked in and started looking at license plates.
Suspicious, Very Suspicious
Suddenly, a big hand clasped Winston’s shoulder, and a uniformed London Bobby demanded, “What are you doing in here?”
When Winston explained, the London metropolitan police officer demanded to know if the young man knew whose car he was seeking.
“Yes,” Winston said, “it belongs to the prime minister.”
The police officer bristled with suspicion. “Where did you get that car number from?”
When Winston replied that the sergeant at the desk at Scotland Yard had given it to him, the bobby didn’t buy the story.
“Did he now?” the officer replied. “Well, we’ll go and see about that!”
With that, he marched Winston back to Scotland Yard where the sergeant on duty confirmed that, indeed, he had given the prime minister’s car number to the young Canadian. About that time, another Bobby stepped forward.
“I know Jimmy Parker,” he said. “I’ll take this chap to number 10.”
Inside the Legendary Premises
“I was surprised that this prominent address didn’t have a bigger, more impressive front door,” Winston recalled.
Tucked inside the world-famous entryway was a little office. It was staffed by Detective Inspector Walter Henry Thompson, who was Mr. Churchill’s personal bodyguard and a former Scotland Yard detective, and Winston’s uncle, Reginald.
Just after Mr. Churchill took office and met Reginald Parker, he asked his new chauffeur his name. After learning it was Reginald, the prime minister made a quick and far-reaching decision.
He informed Winston’s uncle, “From now on, your name will be Jimmy,” and it was for the rest of his life.
Winston recalls the sequence of events.
“I was having a visit with my uncle and Detective Inspector Thompson when Mr. Churchill came walking through the foyer. My uncle stepped out and said, ‘Sir, I’d like you to meet the boy whom my brother named after you.'”
Winston’s father, Herbert Garfield Parker and his mother, Amelia Emily “Milly” Churchill Parker, had chosen that name for their elder son because of a family connection. Milly and the career British politician Winston Churchill were distant cousins.
Meeting his Famous Namesake
“The prime minister stopped and I was introduced. That’s how I met Prime Minister Winston Churchill,” Winston remembered.
“I had always pictured him as a big man, but he wasn’t and he was well into middle age. Nevertheless, in his dark suit, he was most impressive. Winston Churchill had a presence.”
Mr. Churchill spent a few minutes in conversation with Winston, who was smartly dressed in his dark blue Royal Canadian Air Force uniform. As one of the very first men to go through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the young airman’s experiences interested the prime minister.
He also asked Winston if he had seen any debris during his ocean crossing because it hadn’t been long since Germany had sunk the British battleship HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, between Greenland and Iceland.
When Mr. Churchill had satisfied his curiosity, he turned to Winston’s uncle and told him to take his nephew downstairs to see the war room.
“I was honored,” Winston said. “It was a great privilege to see the top-secret war room, which was set up for a banquet for 30 or 40 people that night. Different colored pins were stuck here and there on the large maps covering the walls. I suppose they defined various aspects of the war.”
As Winston was leaving 10 Downing Street after the tour, the prime minister and Mrs. Churchill were getting in the Daimler driven by Winston’s uncle. Winston Churchill and Jimmy Parker raised their hands to acknowledge the young Canadian aviator and he waved back.
Winston’s Official Private Tour
Mr. Churchill had issued another edict earlier that afternoon.
“Bring me in tomorrow,” he told his chauffeur. “Then you can take the day off and use my car to show Parker around London.”
Traffic was heavy during Winston’s guided tour of London the next day. However, every bobby recognized Prime Minister Churchill’s vehicle and stopped traffic to wave the official car through the intersection.
“That day, the only Winston Churchill in the car was me!”
Winston’s uncle drove five different British prime ministers during his 24-year career with Scotland Yard. Jimmy Parker described Sir Winston Churchill as “rather exacting, but a very nice man when you got to know him.”
Winston Churchill later autographed and presented a copy of his famous Yousuf Karsh portrait to Jimmy Parker. Upon his death, the iconic photo became the property of Winston Churchill Parker. He proudly displayed it on the wall in his ranch house for many years.
At the end of World War II, Winston Churchill Parker returned to his beloved ranch life in Alberta. Great Britain’s victorious wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1953.
What a memory!
Winston, who often thought of the rallying words that Prime Minister Churchill delivered to the British people, was particularly fond of a June 1940 speech: We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end; we shall fight in France; we shall fight on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air; we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds; we shall fight in the fields and in the streets; we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
“Mr. Churchill picked that nation up by its bootstraps and everybody in England and the British Empire was willing to die in its defense,” Winston said with frank admiration.
Sir Winston Churchill is widely considered one of the 20th century’s most significant figures. Winston Churchill Parker cherished the memory of the day he shook the great man’s hand and had a conversation with him.
To learn more about Winston Churchill Parker’s wartime service, which included three years of incarceration in a German prisoner-of-war camp, visit my blog post, When Two Worlds Once Touched. You also can check out Winston’s inspiring life story, “Saddles and Service,” on Amazon.
To fully appreciate Prime Minister Winston Churchill, read the bestseller, “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson. It’s a fascinating look at the life of the great man who led Great Britain and the Allies to victory in World War II. It’s also available on Amazon.
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Winston Churchill Parker passed away on Nov. 16, 2020, a few months after his 102nd birthday. He is greatly missed.
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Awesome story, Elaine. You bring to life Winston Churchill during World War II. Looking forward to reading more about him.
Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday to Winston Churchill Parker!
Thank you, Donna
Thanks so much for your feedback, Donna. I will pass along your good wishes to Winston Churchill Parker, whom I visited with yesterday. He’s taking his impending 102nd birthday in stride!
A great read. Thank you for sharing.
Cindy, so glad you enjoyed the Winston Churchill-Winston Churchill Parker story.
Winston’s such an interesting man with so many great, along with bad, memories . Hope these great memories outweigh the bad. Hope he celebrates his 102nd in style.
Winston is, indeed, an interesting man! The other day when I spoke with him he had a joke to share with me. He is a little exasperated that some information he sent me a month ago hasn’t been delivered to me yet, but I’m sure it will be in my mailbox one day soon. Thanks for reading this story and sharing your thoughts, Janice.
As always, you continue to amaze with your interesting stories. I am stifled for words after reading such well written stories about history, the heart and how the universe brings us together. Put all these stories in a book and it will be a bestseller. I am blessed to know you, Elaine. I appreciate your rural upbringing because it mimics my childhood rearing.
Thank you, Jo Lynn, for being such a faithful reader. I am so glad that my stories resonate with you. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!
Please thank Winston Churchill Parker for his service in WWII and beyond.
I plan to print out these comments and send them to Winston so he will be able to enjoy them on his birthday. Thank you for sending Winston good wishes!
Wow, Elaine, what a terrific story!! Thanks for sharing with us!! I’m looking forward to the end of this month so I can send Birthday greetings to this fine , young, Veteran!! Cheers, be well and be safe!! Scott
Thanks, Scott. Sending good wishes back to you, too. Winston will enjoy hearing from you on his birthday because he enjoyed reading your Dad’s memories so much. Those POWs went through so much.
I’m glad you have shared this tale of two Winstons.
Both Winstons were blessed with amazing lives, and God made them a blessing to many others.
I know you count it a privilege to be the one who is sharing the story of your friend, Winston Parker.
I am so happy to have come to know him through your writings!
I wish a happy 102nd birthday to Winston this July! God bless him as he passes this birthday and always!
You are so right, Deb, both Sir Winston Churchill and Winston Churchill Parker have been a blessing to many others through lives well lived. I would go as far as to say both are extraordinary individuals! Thanks for your kind words and I will pass along your comments to Winston.
Elaine, you have an enviable way of bringing a story to life and what a life these two Winston’s had. As far as Prime Minister Winston is concerned I have been fortunate to visit his family home in the south of England, perhaps your readers would enjoy a virtual visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell/explore-indoors and I’ve also had the honour to walk through the door of No10 Downing Street during the ‘Blair years’. I also ‘took tea’ with our present Queen, but that’s another story.
As far as Winston Churchill Parker is concerned I’ve had the privilege of hearing his video recorded account of life in the same prisoner of WWII camp as my Father and a journey they both made on foot from Poland through Czech Republic into Germany during the early days of 1945. Although on different continents at a different time I learned more from Winston about this segment of my father’s life than I did from my dad. For that I shall be forever thankful.
The first of these two Winstons demonstrated the power of the spoken word and the importance of being in the right place at the right time. The second, Winston, demonstrates the indomitable human spirit, a compassion for his ‘fellow man’, his commitment to ensuring that we never forget the horrors perpetrated in history and that we strive together for a better shared future.
I’d happily swap an hour in Winston Churchill’s company for ten minutes with Winston Parker. Happy birthday WInston, at the appropriate time.
Thank you so much, Dave, for your remarks and the link to Chartwell. It’s fascinating that you, too, have walked through the doorway of 10 Downing Street. You’ve also met the Queen? Why that’s another story I’d like to tell one day! Would you like to respond to this post with the links to Winston’s videos that you masterminded? Some blog readers may enjoy hearing Winston’s narrative of the prison camp and the death march from his own lips at the age of 101. I’m so glad we connected at the end of 2019 so you could get this important legacy logged into history. By the way, Winston would love a visit with you, too!
Very happy to share those links Elaine. Winston’s story of life in Stalag VIIIB (344) Poland is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKMexEMTmT8 and his experience on the Lamsdorf Long March https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxtLrPL6gVo
Thank you, Dave. It’s very exciting that the TV show and magazine Who Do You Think You Are picked up on your efforts to tell the story of the death march 75 years after the fact.
Elaine, you continue to find fascinating stories to tell. What a wonderful gift. Royce and I are honored to be included among your friends and fans.
Please pass along our best birthday wishes to the 102-years-young Winston.
Thank you so much, Elva. I am so glad you and Royce are enjoying my stories. While the subjects tend to be all over the map, the common thread is people, events and places that I find interesting that fly under the radar screen.