Monthly Archives: April 2016

Winston Churchill and Fulton, Missouri



The Breakthrough Sculpture and National Churchill Museum

The National Churchill Museum, Fulton, Missouri

Mention the National Churchill Museum and you might be tempted to think of the War Rooms near Horse Guards Parade in London, Blenheim Palace (Churchill’s boyhood estate) or Chartwell (Churchill’s home in Kent, outside London). But the National Churchill Museum actually is in the United States, in the small mid-western town of Fulton, Missouri.

Fulton, Missouri, National Churchill Museum

Winston Churchill invites you to visit his Museum

Shortly after losing his bid for re-election in 1946, ex-Prime Minister Winston Churchill received a letter from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, inviting him to speak. Across the bottom, a handwritten note penned by President Harry Truman reads “This is a wonderful school in my home state. Hope you can do it. I will introduce you.”

Churchill, indeed, accepted the invitation and delivered what is one of his many landmark speeches known officially as “Sinews of Peace.” Unofficially, it is “the Iron Curtain speech.” In it, he noted that, although World War II had ended, “an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent,” which, he predicted, would lead to the “formation of a Soviet sphere.” To counter the mounting power of the Soviet Union, he proposed a “fraternal association of the English-speaking Peoples.” It was the first time that the expression “Iron Curtain” was used to describe the situation in the world.

Stained glass of the phoenix

The Phoenix Rising

To pay homage to this Elder Statesman and to the speech, Westminster College created the National Churchill Museum. The 17th century Church of St. Mary the Virgin (that originally stood at the junction of Aldermanbury and Love Lane in the City of London) was specifically brought to the United States to house the memorial.

A victim of the 1666 Great Fire of London, St. Mary the Virgin Church was rebuilt by Christopher Wren (the 17th-century architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, London) only to be destroyed during the 1940 Blitz. With only the walls left standing, it was destined for demolition. Instead, the stones were transported to Fulton and, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the church was reconstructed brick by brick on the grounds of Westminster College, exactly as Christopher Wren had designed it.

Edwina Sands and the Berlin Wall

The Breakthrough Sculpture by Edwina Sands

Situated on the bucolic campus of the liberal arts college, an English garden, accented by the 1990 sculpture “Breakthrough” by Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sands surrounds the church. The 11-foot high, 32-foot long sculpture consists of eight graffiti-covered sections of the Berlin Wall that originally stood near the Brandenburg Gate. In the middle two sections, the words “Unwahr” (“lies”) are spray-painted in vivid colors. Male and female silhouettes cut out of two sections of the wall by Ms. Sands epitomize the reestablishment of communications between East and West. Ronald Reagan unveiled the sculpture a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Inside the Museum the life of Winston Churchill is laid out from his childhood, his early military and journalistic career (including capture and dramatic escape during the Boer War in South Africa), his political life across two World Wars, through his appearance at Westminster College.

The church above the Museum

Interior of St. Mary the Virgin of Aldermanbury Church

The displays are informative and imaginative, especially the sights and sounds of life in the trenches in World War I. Of particular interest is the light and sound show of a simulated London air raid from World War II. It is so realistic, if you close your eyes, you can almost be there. In a short film Walter Cronkite (himself a Missourian) narrates the story of Churchill leading Britain through World War II.

Following in the footsteps of Churchill, many other world leaders including Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Lech Walesa, Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhail Gorbachev have also lectured at Westminster College.

World War II, London, The Blitz

Experiencing the Blitz

You might expect to visit Churchillian monuments in England. A visit to the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, is a serendipitous discovery.

The Churchill Memorial and Museum is located at 501 Westminster Ave, Fulton, MO; Tel 573-592-5369. Fulton is about 20 miles north of the state capital, Jefferson City.





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