My Favorite Churchill Tales: Winston and the Bournemouth Bridge

How far would you go to win a friendly game of man hunt? Probably not as far as Winston Churchill. Even as a young man, he would never surrender.

A young Winston

A young Winston

When Winston was 18, he was spending his winter holiday from Harrow at his aunt Lady Wimborne’s  estate at Bournemouth. He described it as “forty or fifty acres of pine forest descended by sandy undulations terminating in cliffs to the smooth beach of the English Channel.”

Nice place

Nice place

One day Winston was playing with his younger brother and cousin in the woods. Soon they decided to chase Winston. A man who never took a challenge lightly, Winston began expertly maneuvering through the trees in an attempt to escape.

giphy (5)

After about twenty minutes, Winston found himself on an old, rustic bridge about 30 feet above the ground. He recounts the moment in his book My Early Life, “I saw to my consternation that the pursuers had divided their forces. One stood at each end of the bridge; capture seemed certain.”

The bridge at Bournemouth

The bridge at Bournemouth

Most of us would simply accept defeat and move on to another game, but Winston was too stubborn to quit that easily. Always quick on his feet, he soon concocted a plan.

But in a flash there came across me a great project. The chine which the bridge spanned was full of young fur trees. Their slender tops reached to the level of the footway. ‘Would it not,’ I asked myself, ‘be possible to leap on to one of them and slip down the pole-like stem, breaking off each tier of branches as one descended, until the fall was broken?’

Makes sense

Makes sense

With little time to spare Churchill had to make a decision. “To plunge or not to plunge, that was the question!” He decided to plunge. Three days later he regained consciousness.

God speed

God speed

Luckily after extensive therapy and Winston’s “will-to-live” he soon recovered.

What I love about this story is how it portrays Churchill’s raw potential as a young man and how it was molded into the great wartime leader he eventually became.

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