Sir Martin’s passing was a sad day for who call ourselves Churchillians. His 8-volume biography of Sir Winston Churchill and the Companion volumes are the Everest of all biographies, and an indispensable source for anyone interested in the great man’s life and achievements. That this quiet, self-effacing man found the time and energy to add to that work some 60 other books concentrating on WW2, the Holocaust and histories of the Jewish people is a source of amazement to those of us privileged to know him
I am a member of that lucky group. I had met Sir Martin several times at various social and academic events at Churchill College and elsewhere. But nevertheless was amazed when, having heard I was writing Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table, he rang me to ask if I had any questions that he might help answer. After all, I was hardly among the many historians who had published works dealing with the great man.
In spite of his busy schedule, writing and serving on the Chilcot Commission that was taking testimony and reviewing reams of evidence on Britain’s role in the Iraq war, he offered to read the manuscript and, as he so gently put it, to “see if he could offer some minor suggestions.” He read the entire manuscript, and drew on his unparalled knowledge to enrich and at times gently correct my manuscript. He also related some incidents that had slipped by me in my research at the Churchill Archives. This chore involved several late-day and evening meetings at my office in central London, often immediately after he had put in a long day at the Chilcot Inquiry. And often over a sandwich dinner several notches more austere than the Churchill dinners about which I was writing.
His intellect and wisdom is known to all those who met him, and many who did not. He shared those attributes with me and vastly improved my book. In part this was because he cared deeply that the legacy and history of Winston Churchill be correctly reported. But in part, too, because he wanted to lend a hand to a newcomer to his world, and help her along. I shall miss him.