A cigar given by Sir Winston Churchill to an RAF doctor who helped him after he broke his leg in France could sell for thousands of pounds at auction.
In June 1962 the former British Prime Minister, then aged 87, made front page news when he fell while getting out of bed in his room at the Hotel de Paris in Monte-Carlo. He fractured the neck of his femur and had to have an operation under anaesthetic to set the bone at the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco. Unfazed by the drama, he asked for cold chicken and cognac shortly afterwards!
He was left in plaster from waist to ankle and an RAF medical plane, the Comet Orion, was organised to fly him from Nice to London Airport. The medical team on board was led by RAF squadron leader Bertram AJ Barrow – and he was determined to gain a memento.
Despite being nervous around the political heavyweight, he plucked up courage to ask Churchill for one of his famous cigars. He obliged and Bertram treasured it for the rest of his life.
For decades the cigar was kept in a bedside drawer but now it is set to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on January 9 with an estimate of £2,000-£3,000.
Mr Barrow’s grandson Thomas Barrow, 33, an employment law advisor from London, said:
“This cigar made my dear Grandfather very happy. I recently inherited it but after careful consideration I have decided to sell because I would like its historical significance to be enjoyed and cherished by others as it was once by him. “My late Grandfather was born in 1929 and raised in East London. He came from a poor Irish immigrant family. He asked the RAF to put him through medical school in exchange for 20 years’ service in the RAF. They obliged and he studied at King’s College London, which is also my own alma mater. “He rose quickly in the RAF and was only 33 when he became squadron leader. He told me he was a little nervous around Churchill but was determined to get a cigar! As he was squadron leader and chief medical doctor on the flight, he was primarily responsible for Churchill’s well-being and so they spoke. Churchill asked for a glass of whisky and, to my knowledge, required no medical care on the flight. “Bertram asked for a cigar as a keepsake, and Churchill advised that he could have ‘one that he had been saving’ – which was Cuban and still in its glass case. He liked to chew on them before smoking! “My Grandfather kept it in his bedside drawers at home and often spoke about it and discussed it. He inspired my interest in Churchill. I have read several books about his life, service and leadership.”
Churchill’s political importance ensured his accident in France was well documented. The lot includes 1962 front page stories from The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, the latter headlined, ‘Comet ambulance for Sir Winston …Operation then he has chicken and cognac’ Once back in England, Churchill was taken to The Middlesex Hospital and treated by eminent orthopaedic surgeons. However, his recovery was complicated by the development of deep vein thrombosis. Nevertheless, on August 21, he was discharged to his home in Hyde Park Gate, London. He returned to public life in November 1962 at a political dining society he founded in 1911, The Other Club.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “We occasionally see Churchill cigar stubs that people have picked up after he dropped them but to gain a whole cigar in such pristine condition, given as a gift in unusual circumstances, is special. The lot comes with excellent provenance. For any collector of Churchill memorabilia it is an impressive item to own.”
The cigar is being sold together with memorabilia relating to the accident and a photo of Mr Barrow with members of the medical team standing by the plane that flew Churchill home. Churchill was introduced to Cuban cigars at the age of 20 and was known to smoke eight to 10 a day. He believed they aided his leadership during WW2.
He famously said, ‘Smoking cigars is like falling in love. First, you are attracted by its shape; you stay for its flavour, and you must always remember never, never to let the flame go out’.
Churchill (1874-1965) served as UK Prime Minister twice, 1940-45 during the Second World War, and from 1951-55. Apart from two years between 1922 and 1924, he was a Member of Parliament from 1900 to 1964 representing five constituencies.
Winston Churchill’s cigar, lot 353A, will be offered on January 9, 2023 in Hansons Auctioneers’ Fine Art Auction. (Cover Images Via Reuters)