Charting Churchill: The House at Ditchley Park

by Leslie Hossack

Front Facade, Ditchley Park 2014 by Leslie Hossack

The House at Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire 2014

© Leslie Hossack

As Prime Minister, Winston Churchill’s official country residence was Chequers. However, during the Blitz, it was considered too dangerous, especially on bright moonlight nights. “The broad gravel drives at Chequers looked, from the air, almost like an arrow cut in the lawn and pointing at the house.” (Martin Gilbert) Having been advised not to visit Chequers when the moon was high, Churchill asked Ronald and Nancy Tree if he might use Ditchley Park, their exquisite country home, as a weekend retreat. During the war, Churchill spent a dozen weekends there between November 1940 and September 1942.

The estate is located in Oxfordshire, very close to Blenheim Palace where Churchill was born. On several occasions, the Prime Minister made brief visits to Blenheim while staying at Ditchley Park. It was a welcome change from London for Winston, Clementine and their daughter Mary. Of course, Churchill continued to work while there, morning, noon and night; but he also enjoyed many guests, wonderful meals, walks in the gardens, and film screenings almost every night. The entire estate was equipped with telecommunications similar to those in London, and it was guarded by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when Churchill was in residence. Ashley Jackson has written a detailed account of wartime Ditchley Park entitled Winston Churchill, Oxfordshire, and Ditchley Park. To read this article, please visit The Churchill Centre.

By the end of 1942, German bombing raids had diminished considerably, and the Churchills spent their last weekend at Ditchley Park in September of that year. Soon after, on November 9th 1942, Churchill made a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Day Luncheon in London. He said: “Rommel’s army has been defeated. It has been routed. It has been very largely destroyed as a fighting force… Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

To learn more about events of 1942, please visit the BBC World War II Timeline. This BBC summary, prepared by Bruce Robinson, was last updated in 2011.

The image featured above is part of the limited edition collector’s portfolio created by Leslie Hossack to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill. She presents locations that chart Churchill’s personal and political life, from his birth at Blenheim Palace in 1874 until his death in London in 1965. THE CHURCHILL PHOTOGRAPHS are part of Hossack’s larger body of work that explores Nazi architecture in Berlin, Stalinist structures in Moscow, contested sites in Jerusalem, a Cold War bunker in Ottawa, NATO’s Headquarter Camp in Kosovo, and buildings linked to the Japanese Canadian internment during World War II.

To view more photographs, please visit Leslie’s website.  lesliehossack.com

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