A 17 August 1958 typed letter signed by Winston S. Churchill to his friend, confidante, and longtime Private Secretary Sir John "Jock" Colville, referencing the death of another indispensable Churchill friend and ally, Brendan Bracken, and written from the French home of yet another close Churchill friend and ally, Lord Beaverbrook
La Capponcina, Cap d'Ail: 1958. This typed 17 August 1958 letter from Winston S. Churchill to Jock Colville concerns the death of Churchill’s close friend and wartime Minister for Information, Brendan Bracken. Though short and restrained, the letter is a fascinating convergence, touching three great Churchill associations – Colville, Bracken, and Beaverbrook.
Colville had written to Churchill on 11 August “My dear Winston, I know how much you loved Brendan... You, of course, were everything to him… I… am broken hearted by his going, and this gives me some glimmering of what you must feel.”
This letter, Churchill’s reply, is typed on Churchill’s Chartwell stationery, but with the address crossed out and typed “at La Capponcina, | Cap d’Ail”. The letter is dated “17 August, 1958” and reads “My dear Jock, Thank you very much for writing. It is indeed a great loss to us all and I was glad to have your letter. I look forward very much to seeing you both in September.” Churchill’s autograph valedictory and initial follow “Yours ever, | W”. The words “Brendan’s Death” are written in pencil in an unidentified hand at the head of the letter. Condition of the letter is fine, clean and complete.
Brendan Bracken (1901-1958) was a journalist, Member of Parliament, and wartime Parliamentary Private Secretary, Minister of Information, and First Lord of the Admiralty to Winston Churchill. He was not only Churchill’s staunch political ally, but also a close friend. An encapsulation of Bracken comes from a 2 June 1940 letter Churchill wrote to the King's private secretary after the King had opposed the appointment of Brendan Bracken to the Privy Council: "Mr. Bracken is a Member of Parliament of distinguished standing and exceptional ability. He has sometimes been almost my sole supporter in the years when I have been striving to get this country properly defended... He has suffered as I have done every form of official hostility…"
Bracken served capably and loyally throughout Churchill’s wartime premiership. He was created Viscount in 1952, at the beginning of Churchill’s second and final premiership. Bracken died on 8 August 1958. On 23 August Churchill wrote to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan "He was one of my best friends and a man whose sterling qualities we all admired."
Although Bracken had given instructions that he wanted no memorial, “On the initiative of Jock Colville… £30,000 was raised from Brendan Bracken's friends to build the reading room at Churchill College, Cambridge, Bracken's only public memorial.” (Gilbert, Vol. VIII, p.1275, n.1)
As Assistant Private Secretary and later Joint Principal Private Secretary, Sir John Rupert Colville (1915-1987) remained “almost constantly at Winston’s side” for the majority of Churchill’s two premierships (May 1940-July 1945 and October 1951-April 1955). Colville’s compulsive will to write, his position at the epicenter of action, Churchill’s deep confidence in him, and his keen and discerning intellect render Colville’s diaries a significant contribution to the known history of Churchill and his time. In the interwar years, Colville served as Private Secretary to Queen Elizabeth II (while she was still Princess Elizabeth) and married one of her ladies-in-waiting, Lady Margaret “Meg” Egerton (1918-2004). Colville raised funds for the establishment of Churchill College, Cambridge (where his diaries now reside), and was eventually a trustee of both Winston’s and Lady Churchill’s estates.
In this letter to Colville, “seeing you both in September” refers to Winston and Clementine’s golden wedding anniversary, which they celebrated at La Capponcina, with Colville and his wife in attendance.
La Capponcina at Cap d’Ail in the South of France was the villa of Churchill’s great friend Lord Beaverbrook, William Maxwell Aitken (1879-1964), the Canadian-born media mogul and Tory political figure with whom Churchill enjoyed a sometimes tempestuous, but nonetheless enduring, half-century of close friendship. Item #007375