Churchill had refused for notes to be taken at the lunch
With the Cold War in full swing, keeping top-level discussions from prying eyes was vital.
But not, it seems, if you had a champagne lunch with Winston Churchill.
One such boozy encounter led to his secret 1948 blueprint for Nato being scribbled on toilet paper and flown across the Atlantic.
It was written by a US envoy, whose memory was getting increasingly hazy during the meal. Churchill had refused a request for notes to be taken and the American hid in the toilet to jot everything down on the nearest paper to hand. Many of the ideas formed the basis of the defence alliance still going strong seven decades on.
General Adrian Bradshaw, who has spent three years as deputy supreme allied commander of Europe, revealed the story at the Chalke Valley History Festival, sponsored by the Daily Mail.
Giving the Rothermere American Institute lecture, Sir Adrian gave a fascinating insight into Nato – explaining why Russia was and remains such a threat.
Western Europe was exhausted and militarily weak after the Second World War. But the Soviet Union had emerged stronger with its armies dominating Eastern Europe. As the Iron Curtain split the continent, Churchill decided a more formidable alliance was needed to provide a counterweight to the Soviets.
So in March 1948, Britain, Canada, and the US began discussing a pact, formed the following year. General Bradshaw said earlier this year he went on Nato business to Virginia, where he stayed with a friend who revealed a secret. It was that the host’s father Raymond Guest – a noted racehorse trainer – was sent by the White House to see what Churchill – his cousin – ‘had to say about Nato’. General Bradshaw said: ‘They sat down to a very agreeable lunch – a large part of which was a magnum of champagne, which they polished off. The conversation turned to Nato, and Churchill, firing on all four cylinders and completely compos mentis, from memory reeled off a whole load of ideas. Lots of detail.
Britain, Canada and the US began discussing plans for the pact in 1948
‘Poor Raymond was feeling a little worse for wear and finding it difficult to remember all of this, so he said, ‘Excuse me sir, do you mind if I just go away and find a bit of paper to write it down?’
‘Churchill was horrified and looked at him saying, ‘Young man, don’t you remember anything?’ So in desperation he excused himself and went to the loo and wrote all the details on loo paper, shoved them in to his pocket, and in that form the blueprint for Nato went back across the Atlantic.
‘Many of Churchill’s ideas were taken verbatim and incorporated into the new plans for Nato.’
Spanning 36 years, General Bradshaw’s career in the military saw him go from serving in Germany and the Falklands to commanding 140,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan before becoming the Commander of UK Land Forces.
Many of Churchill’s ideas were taken verbatim and put into Nato’s new plans