Churchill Letter and Cigar

A unique insight into the post war life of one of the most influential figures of the 20th century is set to feature in our next Militaria auction.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965), Typed Letter Signed to R.J. Whitwell, tropical fish breeder and distributor in West Bergholt, 2p., 4to, Chartwell, Westerham, Kent headed paper, dated 8th August, 1951 (typed date “August 1951.” preceded by manuscript pen & ink “8” in Churchill’s hand), content re thanking Mr Whitwell for recent supply of exotic fish to him at Chartwell and asking to be invoiced “Dear Mr. Whitwell, I have had no chance to write to you before, in order to thank you for the most interesting selection of fish which reached me a fortnight ago, and for all the trouble you have taken in answering my inquiries. The Siamese Fighters, Golly and Cleopatra, both had three days together, but she remained coy, protected in her grove, and would not come out under the nest he had made. I have therefore returned them to their separate apartments and will have another try soon. Ought the water in which he made his nest to be changed, or can it be used again? The Black Mollies are breeding at so great a rate and the other children are growing up so fast that we shall soon have to move out on to the lawn. You will I hope let me remind you that I specially asked you to bill me for the fish you sent. I do hope you will do this because I should feel free to ask for more when I wanted them. Believe me, [signed] yours sincerely, Winston S. Churchill”, manuscript pen & ink correction of typo by Churchill, changing a typed “t” at end of “Siamese” to an “e”, together with an unsmoked cigar given by Winston Churchill to R.J. Whitwell when Whitwell visited Churchill at Chartwelll to discuss and advise on keeping tropical fish, the cigar being one of Churchill’s favoured brands, the now defunct “La Aroma de Cuba”, still completely intact and unopened in its original plastic wrapping, housed in a contemporary felt lined, glass fronted mahogany case.


Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. His indomitable spirit, eloquent speeches, and unwavering leadership during times of crisis earned him a place among the greatest statesmen in history. Churchill was also a prolific writer and historian, an accomplished amateur artist, and cultivated many other hobbies and interests, not least being an avid animal lover and keeper of numerous types of pets and animals. He kept goldfish in his ponds at Chartwell, in 1938, the round pond was stocked with a thousand golden orfe which he often fed personally with maggots, even when he was Prime Minister during the Second World War. When Harrods closed their livestock department during the Second World War, Churchill agreed to give refuge to their stock of fish at Chartwell. When he became Prime Minister again in 1951, he had five tanks of tropical fish installed at Chequers.


Mr R.J. Whitwell ran R. J. Whitwell's tropical fish breeding and distributing business on Lexden Road, West Bergholt, from 1945 to his death in 1972. By 1962 the firm employed 11 people and had 700 aquariums, and continued in business until 1995.


With the vendor’s printed letter of provenance, being the nephew of R.J. Whitwell “This Churchill letter and cigar belonged to my uncle who owned a tropical fish business. One day he received a phone call from Sir Winston Churchill’s office asking if he would like to pop over to Chartwell to discuss and give advice on how to keep tropical and freshwater fish. My uncle duly went to Chartwell, met Sir Winston Churchill and was asked if he would like to stay the night at Chartwell to talk some more. Before my uncle left the next morning, Sir Winston Churchill gave him a cigar ‘to smoke on the way home’ but my uncle kept it as a keepsake of his visit. A few weeks later my uncle received an order for some fish which he duly sent and then he received the letter from Sir Winston Churchill asking him to invoice him for the fish”

The letter and cigar are set to feature in the Militaria auction on the 18 April and carry a pre-sale estimate of £1500-2500 


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