- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2005

The 60th anniversary of the end of World War II has been commemorated this year in many ways, all of which remind us of the horrors of war and the glory of victory. The leadership styles of the principal characters of the war have been analyzed, and the special relationship forged between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt compared interestingly to today’s alliance between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair.

Yet despite all the WWII commemorative books and documentaries by many distinguished historians, very little has been written about some of the lesser-known but telling elements of Churchill’s life — particularly his passion for travel and art.

I have spent the last 12 years writing about the more personal characteristics of my grandfather’s life. As his granddaughter, this has been for me a wonderful journey which has taken me to four continents in the footsteps of the most admired man of the 20th century. I have researched and written books about his leadership, his early life, his adventures in South Africa, and most recently about his numerous travels during his long and varied life in my fifth book, “Chasing Churchill.” My decision to write about my grandfather’s travels in this last book was prompted by the happy memories I have of traveling with him in the last years of his life.

These adventurous journeys were intended to be peaceful painting holidays in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun. Indeed they were, but somehow wherever Churchill went a sense of excitement and anticipation went, too. The pleasure of beautiful and exotic places, sumptuous accommodations, fascinating people and delicious food were all beyond compare. But for me, the greatest pleasure was that for these brief periods I had to myself the man the whole world thought they knew and owned.

I have now decided to make a documentary for television covering these little-known chapters of Churchill’s life. Based on “Chasing Churchill,” it will show a very different picture of Britain’s wartime leader.

A combination of travel, art and history, the documentary will take the viewer on a magical journey to retrace my grandfather’s footsteps through six decades. As host and narrator, I will travel as he did on large liners across the Atlantic and luxury yachts in the Mediterranean, on steam trains in South Africa and the United States, on horseback in Cuba and by camel in Egypt. I will visit Marrakech, which Churchill described as the “loveliest spot in the whole world,” and where he took President Roosevelt to see the sun setting on the Atlas Mountains. The viewer and I will visit South Africa, where my grandfather was imprisoned and then escaped with a price on his head for his recapture “Dead or Alive.” And we’ll go to the Mediterranean, to Canada, to Russia and, of course, to the United States, Churchill’s mother’s native land and which he described as “my other country.”

We are now in the beginning stages of production on the documentary and are reviewing potential sponsors for the project. My grandfather once said, “I am a man of simple taste easily satisfied by the best.” With that in mind, the extensive travel and on-location shoots around the world the documentary requires will certainly not be a burden. “Churchillian” journeys are always a treat for me.

When “Chasing Churchill” was published in 2003, I was surprised how few people knew of my grandfather’s love of travel and of his favorite pastime, painting. From the moment that he took up painting in 1915, his paints accompanied him on every journey — except during one period only, during his visit to Marrakech did he paint while traveling through the WWII years. As a result, my grandfather’s paintings are a wonderful but little-known record of his travels, which, when possible, took him to places that were “bathable and paintable.” In fact, most of his paintings have never been exhibited, but will be featured in the documentary.

As I look back 12 years at my first steps in documenting Churchill’s life, it was exciting and emotional to hold the tear-stained letters of the 11-year-old Winston when I was writing my first book about my grandfather. But the compelling paper research those letters represent was not nearly as thrilling for me as the living research I did when following in his footsteps while writing my last book, “Chasing Churchill.”

In developing this documentary, I will gain new joy as I share with viewers as never before a journey that will spectacularly retrace my grandfather’s global adventures and personal passions. I can barely wait.

Celia Sandys is the author of “Chasing Churchill,” which is being developed into a TV documentary.

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