How a young Winston Churchill fell in love with Cuban cigars

We remember Winston Churchill, who passed away on this week in 1965 at 90. Churchill was one of the great leaders of the 20th century and UK Prime Minister 1940-1945 and 1951-55.   Churchill was also a great author and won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his six-volume history of World War II and for political speeches.

He also loved Cuban cigars.  We know now that he met his first Cuban cigar during a visit to the island circa 1895.  My late father once told me that the Cuban embassy in London would often deliver Mr. Churchill a complimentary box of cigars.  Those long cigars came to be known as the “Churchill.”

We remind you that Cuba was still a Spanish colony at the time, three years before the Spanish American War that paved the way to Cuban independence in 1902. According to H.P. Klepak, author of “Churchill Comes of Age, Cuba 1895“, the young Churchill spent 18 days in Cuba.  

He was there on loan from the British army to observe colonial Spain’s defense against independence fighters, as Klepak said in an interview

History previously recorded that Churchill saw combat in Cuba and discovered the siesta, which would later help him keep long hours as British prime minister during World War Two.But Klepak, a former Canadian military officer, argues previous works overlooked how influential the Cuban venture was, including the months of maneuvering Churchill needed to land his assignment.   With his Cuba experience he became a war correspondent, political analyst, strategist and liaison with a foreign army, all for the first time. His writings start to show legendary humor. He discovers rum and Cuban cigars’ breadth and quality.Inspired by observations from local historian Lourdes Mendez, Klepak believes he became the first to scrutinize and cross-check the Cuban, British and Spanish archives, discovering for example that Churchill was fired upon by no less than Antonio Maceo and Maximo Gomez, two of Cuba’s greatest independence leaders.“Very quickly when I looked at it from a historical perspective it was pretty obvious that this was an amazing story which for some reason had never been told,” Klepak said.

Neat story.  This is also a book that you may want to pick up when you need a break from current events.  It is another chapter in the amazing life of one of the most important figures of the 20th century.

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