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Wednesday, November 22, 2006
B-P on Churchill

From Baden-Powell, Indian Memories, 1915. Chapter III. The Sport of Kings and the King of Sports:

The inter-regimental polo tournament is the great event of the year for all regiments in India, and on one occasion it was held at Meerut while my regiment was stationed there. All the teams visiting the place for the occasion naturally made use of our mess, and we formed a very large and happy family. On the night after the final tie had been decided, we had a grand dinner to signalise the event. The health of the winning team was drunk collectively and individually with all honours, and each member of it in turn tendered his thanks to the assembled company. Then the winning team proposed the health of the losers, and they naturally returned their thanks in a similar way, and proceeded to propose the toast of the runners-up, and so it went on during the greater part of the evening until every team in the place had had its health proposed, and speeches had been made without number, all harping on the one topic of polo.

When all was over and a sigh of relief was going round, there suddenly sprang to his feet one of the members of the 4th Hussars' team, who said: "Now, gentleman, you would probably like to hear me address you on the subject of polo!" It was Mr. Winston Churchill. Naturally there were cries of: "No, we don't! Sit down!" and so on, but disregarding all their objections, with a genial smile he proceeded to discourse on the subject, and before long all opposition dropped as his honeyed words flowed upon their ears, and in a short time he was hard at it expounding the beauties and the possibilities of this wonderful game. He proceeded to show how it was not merely the finest game in the world but the most noble and soul-inspiring contest in the whole universe, and having made his point he wound up with a peroration which brought us all cheering to our feet.

When the cheering and applause had died down one in authority arose and gave voice to the feelings of all when he said: "Well, that is enough of Winston for this evening," and the orator was taken in hand by some lusty subalterns and placed underneath an overturned sofa upon which two of the heaviest were then seated, with orders not to allow him out for the rest of the evening. But very soon afterwards he appeared emerging from beneath the angle of the arm of the sofa, explaining: "It is no use sitting upon me, for I'm india-rubber," and he popped up serenely and took his place once more in the world and the amusement that was going on around him. I have often remembered the incident on occasions since then when in politics or elsewhere he has given proof of his statement.

Other incidents followed on that cheerful evening, such as polo pony races over jumps made up of furniture round the billiard room, and a musical ride on camels in the ante-room, but none of them made such an impression on my memory as did the first great speech of the future First Lord.

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