Churchill's Faithful Chela

Charles Lysaght strips away some of the many mysteries surrounding Brendan Bracken, Churchill’s staunch but enigmatic supporter, and the founder of this magazine.

The memory of Brendan Bracken, the centenary of whose birth occurred in February 2001, is inextricably linked with that of Sir Winston Churchill. ‘He has sometimes been almost my sole supporter in the years when I have been striving to get this country properly defended,’ Churchill wrote to the King in 1940, rejecting royal reservations about making Bracken a Privy Councillor.

But overt political support was only one of the services Bracken rendered Churchill. Harold Macmillan remarked memorably that, like Aaron with Moses, Bracken held Churchill’s arms high during his years in the wilderness. Churchill always called Bracken ‘dear Brendan’ rejoicing in the young man’s vitality and outrageous ebullience that alone seemed able to banish the depression that often enveloped him. The friendship had started in 1923 when Bracken, then only twenty-two, contradicted Churchill at a lunch given by J.L. Garvin of The Observer. It was sustained by lively argument, constant quarrelling and fierce loyalty until Bracken died in 1958. He gave Churchill much more than he took or even asked. In so doing he won his place in history.

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