“To Pug from Winston” – Churchill’s last epic work, inscribed to his indispensable wartime Chief of Staff

We recently had the privilege of cataloguing a remarkable, inscribed first edition set of Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. Only one collector will have the good fortune of being this set’s next owner, but it is compelling enough to merit sharing with a wider audience. Hence this post.



IsmayThis set is inscribed and dated in three volumes to Churchill’s close friend and indispensable wartime Chief of Staff, General Lord Hastings Lionel “Pug” Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay (1887-1965). Each of the three volumes is intimately inscribed using Ismay’s nickname and Churchill’s first name.







Volume II is inscribed in five lines in black ink: “To | Pug | from | Winston | November 1956”.







003122_Cropped_Volume_III_InscriptionVolume III is inscribed in four lines in blue ink: “Pug | from | Winston | October 1957”.







003122_Cropped_Volume_IV_InscriptionVolume IV is inscribed in five lines in black ink: “To | Pug | from | Winston | April 1958”.







The Association 

We became hand in glove and much more…”

(Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 1948)

This was Churchill’s own and ultimate tribute to his friend.

Churchill_with_Chiefs_of_StaffWhen Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940, he also assumed appointment as Minister of Defence. Ismay served as Churchill’s Chief of Staff in that capacity and others, for Churchill’s entire wartime premiership. During the war, Ismay also served as Deputy Secretary to the War Cabinet. Ismay described his role thus: “I had three sets of responsibilities. I was Chief of Staff Officer to Mr. Churchill; I was a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee; and I was head of the Office of the Minister of Defence. Thus I was a cog which had to operate in three separate though intimately connected mechanisms.” Less formally, Ismay summarized: “I had a legitimate foot in every camp – naval, military, air, as well as political. I did not have a finger in every pie, but it was my duty to know about all the pies that were being cooked and how they were getting on.” (Ismay, Memoirs, p.168)

Ismay_WSC_FDR_Mountbatten_Casablanca_ConferenceIsmay’s position was unique, both in the confidence he enjoyed and the scope and duration of his service. “Hundreds of Churchill’s famous minutes and the replies to them were personally handled by Ismay, who commanded the prime minister’s absolute trust. He was the essential link with the chiefs of staff… Difficult allies respected him as much as did difficult colleagues. On delicate missions abroad, amid growing responsibilities for the most secret matters, from 1940 to 1945 Ismay endured strains more continuous than any battle-commander, and sometimes equally intense. Not even Sir Alan Brooke was so exposed to the exigencies and exhaustion of intimate work with Churchill by day and by night.” Ismay was “Shrewd, resilient, accessible, emollient in diplomacy but of an unbreachable integrity.” (ODNB)

When Churchill’s second premiership began in October 1951, Ismay was first appointed Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and, swiftly thereafter, Secretary-General of NATO, a post he held from 1952 until his retirement in 1957.

Even Ismay’s early career was deeply shaped by his future Prime Minister and patron. As a young officer in India in 1910 “Mr. Winston Churchill, whom I had never met, and, as it then seemed, was unlikely ever to meet, exercised a decisive influence on my future.” Despite shock that “anyone who had started so brilliantly should have thrown it all up and gone into Parliament” Ismay was critically inspired by Churchill’s intrepid early accomplishments with both sword and pen. Ismay felt “on the whole, I could not do better than try to emulate the example of his early years” and resolved to apply himself diligently to both active service opportunities and self-education. This included close reading of Churchill’s The River War (which he would argumentatively quote to Churchill more than three decades later). (Ismay, Memoirs, pp.15-16)

Like Churchill, Ismay was educated at Sandhurst and saw early service as a cavalry officer in India. Unlike Churchill, Ismay did not leave soldiering for politics. By the early 1920s, recognition of his talents and his performance at the Staff College in Quetta ended Ismay’s regimental soldiering.   Ismay would serve the Committee of Imperial Defence in various capacities, becoming CID Deputy Secretary in 1936 and Secretary in 1938, and being promoted major-general in 1939. “Inadequacies of government policy made the months before and immediately after the outbreak of war in 1939 the most frustrating of his life.” (ODNB) But in April 1940, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chose Ismay to assist Churchill in his role as chairman of the ministerial co-ordinating committee. A month later Churchill became Prime Minister. Ismay would be promoted Lieutenant-General in 1942 and General in 1944, and made Baron in 1947.

Both their close bond and Churchill’s reliance upon Ismay endured after Churchill’s wartime premiership. When Churchill wrote his six volume war memoirs, Ismay was his principal advisor on all military questions. (Gilbert, VIII, p.221) “With Ismay as a guide, Churchill knew that he could be certain of a careful, accurate scrutiny of his work, and the bringing in wherever necessary of other experts and helpers.” (Gilbert, VIII, p.235) Ismay proved as indispensable in this as he had in the war, providing a steady stream of substantive notes and documents, edits and amendments, recollections, and perspective. Bill Deaken later recalled “Ismay read everything on the military side. He was frequently a guest at Chartwell and at Hyde Park Gate. He loved Winston with a passion. Winston relied on his judgement. He had no military confidant except Ismay.” Gilbert, VIII, p.315)

One anecdote among many testifies to the depth of a personal relationship that underpinned and transcended shared service: Within hours of becoming Prime Minister for the second and final time on 26 October 1951, Churchill phoned Ismay, rousing him from sleep: “Is that you, Pug?” “Yes, Prime Minister. It’s grand to be able to call you Prime Minister again.” “I want to see you at once. You aren’t in bed, are you?” Ismay recalled “I put my head under a cold tap, dressed in record time, and was at 28, Hyde Park Gate within a quarter of an hour of being wakened… I was overjoyed at the prospect of serving under Churchill again.” (Ismay, Memoirs, pp.452-453)

WSC_tribute_for_MemoirsWhen Churchill inscribed these books to Ismay, both men were entering their twilight, both adding final words to a lifetime of deeds. Two years after Churchill inscribed his final volume of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples to “Pug,” Ismay’s own Memoirs were published, opening with a Tribute from Churchill “to the signal services which Lord Ismay has rendered to our country, and to the free world, in peace and war. Churchill was the guest of honor at a London dinner to celebrate the publication of Ismay’s Memoirs. (Gilbert, VIII, p.1315) Both men died in 1965.



The Edition

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples is Churchill’s sweeping history and last great work. The first draft was completed just before the Second World War, but the work was not completed and published until after Churchill’s second and final Premiership, nearly 20 years later. The work traces a great historical arc from Roman Britain through the end of the Nineteenth Century, ending with the death of Queen Victoria. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the very year that saw Churchill conclude his first North American lecture tour, take his first seat in Parliament, and begin to make history himself.

The first British edition is regarded as one of the most beautiful productions of Churchill’s works, with tall red volumes and striking, illustrated dust jackets. Churchill seems to have taken an active and detailed interest in the aesthetics of the publication. He told his doctor: “it is not necessary to break the back of the book to keep it open. I made them take away a quarter of an inch from the outer margins of the two pages and then add the half-inch so gained to the inner margin.” He was clearly satisfied with the result, remarking with pardonable exuberance “It opens like an angel’s wings.” (Gilbert, Volume VIII, p.1184) Unfortunately, as beautiful as the first editions are, they proved somewhat fragile. The dust jackets commonly suffer significant fading, wear, soiling, and spotting, and the books typically bear spotting and fading of the red-stained top edges.

To read more about the first edition of Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples in our online Guide to Churchill’s Books, click HERE.

In recent years, several items inscribed by Churchill to Lord Ismay have been offered, but few as first edition sets in original bindings. The inscriptions would make this set special even if it were rebound and later printing, but the fact that it is first printings in original bindings makes it especially compelling.

This set is currently offered for sale HERE.


A unique WWII archive from Churchill’s nurse

History is often told from the perspective of great events and the great personalities who shape them. The few who conspicuously make history are also those most likely to record it; the voices of the many who are busy living history are often lost.

That’s why an archive we have recently catalogued is so remarkable, offering an intimate, detailed, and uncommonly common perspective on the Second World War and one of its greatest figures, Winston Churchill.

003427This remarkable Second World War archive belonged to Churchill’s wartime nurse, Dorothy Pugh (1919-2014). It includes her inscribed copy of Churchill’s autobiography, her personal wartime diary, photographs and wartime correspondence, and later correspondence from Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert.

Nurse_PughIn February 1943, Churchill was struggling to recover from a series of illnesses, the most recent of which was pneumonia. Churchill’s doctor, Sir Charles Wilson (made Lord Moran that March), Dean of St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, hired a young St. Mary’s nurse to attend the Prime Minister.

Nurse Pugh’s diary records that all she knew on 19 February 1943 was “Am to go out on a case tomorrow… all very exciting.”20_Feb_1943

The next day she “Met Sir C Wilson who duly introduced me to Mr WSC met Mrs C a little later. Both of them very nice indeed… it all feels strange and unreal but no doubt I shall soon get used to it…”


By the following day, it was decided she would reside with the Prime Minister: “Am going to live in as it’s a rush to get here in the morning.” She would stay with him for several weeks, and thereafter as needed.


For the next eighteen months, Nurse Pugh would not only serve the Prime Minister in London, but also accompany him to Chequers and travel with him to both the first and second Quebec conferences with Roosevelt.


Inscripton_CropDuring her first week with Churchill, he gave her a copy of My Early Life inscribed: “To | Nurse Dorothy Pugh | from | Winston S. Churchill | February 1943”. Her inscribed copy of My Early Life is the 1941 first printing of the wartime Macmillan reprint from the 1930 first edition plates. Macmillan acquired the rights to several Churchill books after the original publisher, Thornton Butterworth, went under in 1940. There were ultimately four Macmillan printings of My Early Life between 1941 and 1944. The first printing is both aesthetically superior and distinctly different from the three subsequent printings, printed on thicker paper than later printings. The first printing dust jacket also differs in the Churchill titles it advertises on the rear face.Jacket_Front_Face

Nurse Pugh’s inscribed copy is in near fine condition except for wrinkling to the front cover binding cloth, which appears to be a binding flaw rather than the result of any subsequent damage. The dust jacket is in near very good condition, showing overall age and wear, including modest spine toning, with only minor losses to extremities.Binding_Front_Cover

The inscribed book is significant, but Nurse Pugh’s remarkable personal diary is what truly anchors this archive, primary source material with myriad unique glimpses of wartime history – and of Churchill himself. The diary, in superior condition in the original blue leather binding, bears entries spanning 1942 to 1946.


Nurse Pugh’s entries juxtapose movie reviews, enthusiasm for eggs, and concern for her RAF husband with first-hand accounts of Churchill and key wartime figures that range from humorous and poignant (“Bed bathed P.M…. Mrs C as an audience – not a very pleasant job – still all was well. P.M. very sweet.”) to grave import (“PM told me that Tunisia will be O.K. now.”).23_Feb_1943

Pugh’s entries interweave daily London life of rationing, air raids, and “carry on” ethos with the momentous figures, events, and decisions shaping wartime Britain. Among the “mundane” but viscerally affecting wartime entries are those from the month before she met Churchill:

17 January 1943 “Air raid warning went at 8:30 pm – real gun fire so quite noisy for about 20 mins. All patients good. Dr. Gosse came to see if everyone O.K.”
18 January 1943 “Another warning at 4:40 am. Very heavy barrage…”
28 January 1943 Two letters from Roger… It’s a year now since R. joined the R.A.F.
3 February 1943 “Felt very depressed & had a jolly good howl. Felt much better after.”

An appreciation for Nurse Pugh’s unique perspective was doubtless shared by Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, who contacted her on 22 March 1982 asking for her recollections about Churchill. She replied on 6 April 1982 and some of her reflections were recorded in Churchill’s official biography, including her conversation with Churchill aboard the Queen Mary en route to the second Quebec conference with Roosevelt in September 1944. (See Gilbert, VII, p.950)


The three letters from Gilbert are included in this archive, as are five photographs of Nurse Pugh, among them two taken in Quebec during her travels with Churchill, as well as a Christmas 1944 letter to Nurse Pugh from her superior at St. Mary’s Hospital.

DocumentsNurse Pugh’s diary was given to her by her fiancé, Roger. In February 1942 Roger was posted. They married in May. Roger served in the RAF with the 252 Squadron, flying Bristol Beaufighters in the Mediterranean, including Libya and Greece.From_Roger

Interspersed among the historic personalities and great events her diary records, it also records private moments of both fraught concern and staid resolve for her husband. Roger survived the war; they would have two children and six grandchildren. At the end of her long life Dorothy Pugh was remembered for many things – a generous nature, charity work, love of gardening and keenness for ornithology – but perhaps most for her wartime service to Churchill. Her unique experience is remarkably encapsulated and illuminated in this archive, in both Churchill’s hand and her own.

I could prattle on at length about Nurse Pugh’s perspective on wartime Britain and Winston Churchill, but since we have the benefit of her diary, I will spare you more of my prose and share excerpts from her diary entries.

19 August 1942 “Day of Dieppe raid. First time Roger’s boys really went into action. First operational flight as new 252 squadron.   Strong didn’t come back.”
24 September 1942 “Busy afternoon doing blackout curtains.”
19 November 1942 “just horrid leaving him [Roger] – he looked so young & forlorn.”
17 January 1943 Air raid warning went at 8:30 pm – real gun fire so quite noisy for about 20 mins. All patients good. Dr. Gosse came to see if everyone O.K.
18 January 1943 Another warning at 4-40 am. Very heavy barrage…
28 January 1943 Two letters from Roger. Telephoned o.w. after duty. It’s a year now since R. joined the R.A.F.
3 February 1943 Felt depressed & had jolly good howl.   Felt much better after.
19 February 1943 “Am to go out on a case tomorrow… all very exciting.”
20 February 1943 “Met Sir C Wilson [Churchill’s doctor, later becomes Lord Moran] who duly introduced me to Mr. WSC met Mrs. C a little later. Both of them very nice indeed. Quiet day – really very little to do – it all feels rather strange and unreal but no doubt I shall soon get used to it… Met Lord Beaverbrook”
21 February 1943 “P.M. had a better night + felt much better. Saw Sir Charles. Quiet morning. A Eden came just before lunch… General Ismay arrived… Am going to live in as its a rush to get here in the morning.”
22 February 1943 “Fairly busy day. P.M. kept finger on bell pretty well all day… Letter from Roger – not much news but he seems very well & quite busy too. PM told me that Tunisia will be O.K. now.”
23 February 1943 “Bed bathed P.M… Mrs C as an audience – not a very pleasant job – still all was well. P.M. very sweet.”
25 February 1943 “Sir C told off by P.M. – rather funny.”
27 February 1943 “P.M. wants Doris [another nurse] & me to go to Checquers w/ him!!!”
1 March 1943 “P.M. had cinema show after tea – 7 pm. I went. Saw 2 news reels + “Nine Men”. Quite good.
2 March 1943 “Cinema during afternoon. “Once Upon a Honeymoon”. P.M. did not think much of it… Lord Louis came to dinner. Handsome man.”
3 March 1943 “P.M. had cabinet meeting. Lunch at No 10. shown around the house all very interesting. Saw P.M. off – was very sweet to me”
12 August 1943 “Started day very well w/ a letter from R. who is now in Sicily!!… Watched large formation of bombers – made me feel very lonely for R.”
17 August 1943 “All organized resistance stopped in Sicily today, All news quite good.”
7 January 1944 “Wakened by Johnson – just heard her fiance has been killed. Tried my best to give her some comfort. Could not go to sleep after.”
6 April 1944 “Still no mail. I feel at the moment that’s all I live for – just a letter from Roger. It hardly seems possible that its 16 months since I saw him – Some times it seems like yesterday when he said good-bye on Edinburgh Station – I’ll never forget that.”
6 June 1944 “8AM NEWS. First stages of invasion started. Allies made landings from Le Harve to Cheubourg. Great excitement. Makes one really feel that the end is beginning.”
29 August 1944 “Call from Matron – am to go to Stoney Gate … P.M. just landed – slight chill – I hope nothing more. Welcomed by them all – as an old friend.”
30 August 1944 “Visit from Dr. G. M. Lord M + Col. Drew. T[emperature] down. Gen Eisenhower called & stayed very late…”
4 September 1944 “P.M. in very good form. Told by Lord M at 6:30 pm that I’m to go on the trip to Canada!! Called at S.M.H. to collect clothes…”
5 September 1944 “Left London at 10 AM for Port of Embarkation. Sailed at 8:30 pm from Scotland in Q.M.”
10 September 1944 “5th day land sighted by 11:30 am. Landed Halifax Nova Scotia at 2:30 pm.”
13 September 1944 “Reception for British Delegation. Present to Mrs. F.D.R. Mr. Mackenzie King. Dancing after dinner.”
20 September 1944 “Sailed at 4:30 – saw Statue Liberty. Picked up P.M. etc at Staten Isle. Then sailed.”
23 September 1944 “Chat w/P.M.”