The Inspiring History of a Special Relationship by Nancy Carver

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The Inspiring History of a Special Relationship


Author: Nancy Carver
Summary: A beautifully researched and detailed history of the rebuilding of the St Mary Aldermanbury in the grounds of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where Winston Churchill had made his Sinews of Peace speech, after it was destroyed in the Blitz. Knowledgeable, comprehensive but highly readable and accessible with wonderful production values, this is a book for anyone interested in the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
Category: History
Rating: 4.5/5
Date: November 2020
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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The church of St Mary Aldermanbuy had existed in the City of London from at least 1181, when it was first mentioned in records. Sadly, the original church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was rebuilt in Portland stone from a design by Sir Christopher Wren soon after the fire and then survived for centuries until World War II, when it was again ruined by bombs during the Blitz. But that wasn't the end of its story: after a phenomenal fundraising effort, the stones from the church's walls were transported to Fulton, Missouri. There, in the grounds of Westminster College, the church was rebuilt and today serves as a memorial to Winston Churchill.

Why, you might ask, would an American college want to do this? Well, shortly after the war, in 1946, Churchill had travelled to the United States to give his famous Sinews of Peace speech, which warned of the dangers of Soviet communism and stressed the importance of the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. The speech was given at Westminster College and presaged the beginning of the Cold War. Today, the reconstructed church serves both as the college chapel and a memorial to this special relationship cemented so deeply during the war.

Nancy Carver's intricately researched book covers Churchill's speech and its consequences, the development of the special relationship, the deep ties of history between the two nations and, finally, the campaign to transport and rebuild the church of St Mary Aldermanbury. It's a truly engrossing read, full of accurate historical detail and with portraits of all the many characters involved. Even the film star Douglas Fairbanks Jr got involved! A decorated naval officer during World War II, Fairbanks had worked with British commandos. The book is full of detail like this and I suspect the level of surprise - Oh! I dd not know that! - will depend on which side of the Pond the reader hails from! There's a wonderful anecdote about the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, when a donation of 8,000 books from Britain was used to start the first public library in the city.

Carver has worked an absorbing narrative of this story of the relationship between two countries, culminating in the transportation of an historic church and the creation of a memorial to Winston Churchill. It's full of deep research but is never dry and the result is an interesting, absorbing and accessible book - a real tribute to the Sinews of Peace speech. And the production values are wonderful - fascinating photographs, heavy, quality paper. Written during the lockdown as both countries suffered through the global covid 19 panic, I'm left thinking of that perennial theme - out of awful things come little sparkling nuggets of good. It's rather comforting actually.

Recommended to all readers on both sides of the Pond.

For more about Churchill, we can recommend Churchill's Bunker: The Secret Headquarters at the Heart of Britain's Victory by Richard Holmes.

You can also buy the book from [ The National Churchill Museum].


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