Winston Churchill: The Great Escape Part 11 | Hideout
How Winston Churchill spent three of the handful of days that he was on the run from the boars after his escape would be a minor form of hell for most people. There is no doubt about it as we all know. Churchill had previously been wandering the VELDE after his initial escape from prison. Trying figure out how to get to Portuguese East Africa now. He was completely alone. Kind've two hundred feet below the surface of the belt and it was pitch black at least for the first of those three days for after that first day down in the bowels of the earth as Churchill described it himself he learned very quickly how important it was to light the candle that he was given down there. At what taught him this very valuable lesson of lighting his candle. Well it's that creature that even Indiana Jones himself couldn't stomach Churchill while he was hiding in this pitch black maze two hundred feet below the velde in the bowels of the Earth as we said he was surrounded at all times by rats and not. Just your typical gray rat that you're picturing right. Now on your head but albino rats all white with red eyes. How many there were down there. He couldn't tell but he would later find out that they weren't fact. Everywhere author candice. Millard says that there were quote swarms of them and quote the first night. The church was down there before he knew about the rats in the twilight of his sleep he could feel little tugs on his pillow as he lay there. He was then fully awakened by the feeling of something jumping on him and then crawling across his body again. What that's something was. He didn't know he tried to light the candle at that point but it was gone. He found out later that the rats had eaten it while he was asleep alongside all the food that he had with him it was only when he lit the other candles that he was subsequently given that he was finally able to understand what was happening down there. So imagine that moment you're deep underground in a pitch black maze. Hearing and feeling the scurrying all around you but not seeing anything and then you pull out a candle and strike the match in the narrow field of the flames light everywhere you it appears that the floor that you're actually standing on is moving only to realize that after your vision adapts to the light. The floor isn't actually moving. It's just a small C- of Albino rats climbing all over one another. They're white bodies and red eyes glowing in the candles light now at least to me. That sounds like something written into a horror movie script. Only this was Winston Churchill's reality for about seventy two hours during his escape from the Boers as I said. Hell when we left off last episode the event twenty-five year-old Winston Churchill was still wandering the South African velde trying to escape from bore territory by reaching Portuguese East Africa which lay three hundred miles to the east Churchill's plan for escaping to Portuguese east. Africa was to hide and ride in the trains that were traveling east at night and then jump off the trains before the sun came up each day to find water and food before hiding again in the Velde for the rest of the day until the sun went down and then that cycle would be on repeat for days till freedom was his in Portuguese east Africa but the boars knew that Churchill might utilize the trains as a means of escape and so they ordered that all the trains be shut down thus churchill was forced to look for other means of escape all while the manhunt for him raged on with the Boers printing three thousand photographs of Churchill for distribution and searching every nook and cranny that they could possibly find looking for the fugitive however Churchill eluded the board search efforts by navigating the velde deliberately and carefully but soon enough Churchill's energies started to give way he had not eaten a decent meal in days and he was unable to sleep as you might imagine given the stress of the situation that he was in in addition his only means of travel to Portuguese East Africa. Now that the trains were shut down was his own legs and it would take him weeks to reach freedom. If he walked all the while risking being recaptured by the boers so in short Churchill was running out of options so the next night as he found himself wandering the velde again in the darkness trying to figure out exactly what to do and at the end of his tether as he put it he saw what looked to be a fire in the distance and so he moved closer to find out exactly what it was but as he got closer he realized that it wasn't fire that he saw it was something else and so a decision had to be made at that point whether to move forward and take the chance or to wander out back into the darkness of the Veldt but Churchill of course being Churchill as we know him very well by now always one for adventure he stepped forward and he decided to just go for it and let the chips fall where they may so. If it wasn't a fire that he initially thought he saw the distance. What was it what he had actually seen was the mouth of a coal mine being illuminated by the furnaces inside that powered the machinery of the mind. So you can picture just in the distance something glowing orange and then surrounding the mouth of this coal mine were a few small buildings as well. As a quote small but substantial stone house two stories high and quote that's Churchill capturing that from his own writing and it was in front of this small stonehouse that Churchill now stood trying to decide what to do should he turn around and walk back out into the Velde or should he knock on the door of the house and as we said Churchill rolled the dice quoting Churchill from his own book. My early life. He quote advanced toward the Silent House and struck my fist upon the door. It was around three o'clock in the morning. Initially no one answered his knock so churchill knocked again and then suddenly a light went on in the window of a room upstairs and then that same window shot open. A man yelled out of the window worse. Da Meaning who's there Churchill. Then admitting that he had not thought this far ahead just blurted something out he said quote I want help I have had an accident and quote and from there Churchill then heard the heavy steps of the man coming down the staircase then the lock of the door opened and the door swung open and standing. There was a tall man with a dark moustache. The man then said to Churchill this time in English quote what do you want? Churchill then continued his lie pretending that he was an injured bore quote. I've had an accident. I was going to join my commando at commodity port. We were skylark thing. I've been unconscious for hours. I think I have dislocated my shoulder and quote the man then said to churchill quote. Well come in the man then escorted Churchill into another small room which was a dining room slash office. He then struck a match lit a lamp and put the lamp on the dining room table. In front of were Churchill was standing and then the man did something that made Churchill very nervous he placed a gun on the opposite end of the table where he stood then looking straight at Churchill in the dim light of the lamp the man said quote. I think I'd like to know a little bit more about this railway accident of yours. Churchill could sense some suspicion in the man's voice so Churchill replied quote. I think I'd better tell you the truth. The man then responded. I think you had so very tense. Energy the table at this point as you can imagine for Churchill went with his gut instinct and he came totally clean stating quote. I am Winston Churchill War correspondent of the Morning Post. I escaped last night from Pretoria. I am making my way to the frontier. I have plenty of money. Will you help me? And quote after Churchill's confession. The man allowed a very long silence to fall between them. And this is all from Churchill's recollection of the events and so there was a very tense energy once again until the man finally stood up walked over to the door and locked it he then turned around walked slowly toward Churchill and then out of nowhere grabbed his hand and started to shake it. Now as you might expect Churchill was caught off guard but the man then enthusiastically said to churchill quote. Thank God you have come here. It is the only house for twenty miles where you would not have been handed over but we are British here and we will see you. Through and quote imagine that moment when Churchill realised that his gamble had paid off him. Knocking on that door had absolutely been the right decision because the man who is now shaking his hand was named Mr John Howard and John Howard was British as he had said but he was by this point. Also a quote naturalized Burger or a boar citizen who is maintaining the mine that Churchill had mistaken for a fire at the behest of the government in other words. John Howard was a Brit with British loyalties. Personally but he was being allowed to live in bore territory working their mind for them. Churchill could not have been any luckier here for it was this man and all the rest of the mind workers who were also British who would ultimately help Churchill in his escape and this was no small thing that these folks were doing either. If caught aiding and abetting Churchill escape they would most likely be charged with treason and then shot but John Howard and the rest of his crew. Put it all on the line to help Winston Churchill get to Portuguese east Africa and so right after this exchange between Churchill and Howard Churchill was immediately given food water and of course whiskey and as Churchill ate and drank John Howard left the house to wake up his crew. Snake it all come up with a plan to get Churchill border territory and remember. This is in the middle of the night after a while. Howard returned to the House with most of the plan put together in his head with a few small variables still left to figure out Howard asked Churchill to then follow him and back out into the darkness they both went with just a hint of the dawn that was to come on the horizon and so they walked across the yard of this house toward the mouth of the coal mine and it was here that Churchill heard the words that would foreshadow all that was to come at the mouth of the coal mine was another man named Mr Do snap who was from Oldham. Which in an extremely wild coincidence happens to be the same exact town were Churchill had. I stood for election to parliament and lost which Mr do snap apparently remembered for as Mr do snap shook Churchill's hand at the mouth of the coal mine. He said to churchill quote. They'll all vote for you. Next time and quote prophetic words to say the least. But from there Mr Howard's plan for Churchill's escape was put into motion. Churchill was led into the cage of the coal mine and from there and Churchill's own words quote down we shot into the bowels of the earth and so the cage descended two hundred feet down into a pitch black labyrinth of mine. Shafts and two additional Scottish miners were at the bottom of the mine waiting for Churchill Churchill exited the cage and he followed the to minors and they wound their way through this maze guided only by the lanterns that they were carrying Churchill followed closely behind. Churchill's own words again quote. We walked for some time through the pitchy. Labyrinth with frequent turns twists and alterations of level and finally stopped in sort of chamber where the air was cool and fresh and quote the to minors then laid out a makeshift bed for Churchill and gave him candles first and then a box of cigars and a bottle of whisky how well they appear to know Churchill already they then left him there with the warning to not move from this space no matter what happens and then the two men disappeared back into the darkness and Churchill was then alone again. He wrote later of this moment. Quote in this comfortable mood and speeded by intense fatigue. I soon slept the sleep of the weary but of the triumphant and quote Churchill would spend three days down in the mine hiding from the bore search parties that were combing the area looking for him and these three days down in the mine. Were not altogether that pleasant as you might imagine. He was alone for pretty much all of that time. With the exception of a few visits from Howard and the other men who brought him down more food and provisions but the darkness of the mind started to wear on him and soon enough as we said earlier he would learn that while there were no other people down in the shaft with him there were in fact countless rats to keep him company. How he didn't go crazy during those three days. I'll never know but if I had to take a guess. It must've had something to do with that bottle of whisky that he was given finally after three days down in the mine. Mr Howard thought it was safe enough to bring Churchill back up to the surface and hide him in a small secret room that was behind some packing cases inside his own office and so church was once again instructed not to come out of the room unless he heard the secret knock that they both agreed. Upon for a few more days. Churchill sat locked away in this small room reading a copy. A Robert Louis. Stevenson's book kidnapped and it's worth mentioning here that one of those days. While he was hiding in the secret room he heard a series of gunshots outside the House and he immediately thought that the boers had in fact now found him and that it was all over and he was being recaptured. But John Howard being the great guy that he was anticipating the anxiety that church would have been feeling after hearing the gunshots. He soon came up to ease his fear telling him that. It wasn't fact a bore military officer that had come but that they weren't looking for. Churchill any longer and this was because they said that they had caught Churchill the day before in another town which obviously was untrue given the fact Churchill himself was hearing this news regardless though to get the man to leave the Property Howard challenged him to a rifle shooting contest which he lost to the man and he paid the guy two pounds and then the man took off and after hearing this of course Churchill felt much better but then Howard said something else that made Churchill anxious once again Howard said as he left the small room quote. It's all fixed up for tonight and quote meaning that the time for hiding out was now over and the time for escape had now come. Churchill responded with quote what do I do Howard replied quote? Nothing you simply follow me when I come for you. And so here was the next phase of the plan in a nutshell. John Howard knew a man named Charles Burnham who was a Dutch shopkeeper who live nearby and it's worth noting here that Churchill refers to burn them in his recollection of the events as Bergner. Now I'm not certain if he was simply disguising the man's name in his book or simply got it wrong. But this shopkeeper Burnham sympathized with the British and John Howard knew this so Howard approached Burnham about helping Churchill Escape and Burnham agreed to help Burnham then mentioned that he was scheduled to ship a large order of wool by train to delegate obey the exact point that church was trying to get to and this shipment was scheduled to leave on December nineteenth. So if they wanted to try it they hype. Churchill in the middle of this will shipment and smuggled Churchill into Portuguese East Africa that way. And here's how Churchill himself captures how he would be smuggled out in the bales of wool quote. The bales could be so packed as to leave a small place in the center of the truck in which I could be concealed and quote and truck here means train car and this would be easily accomplished as well given the fact that the mind itself was connected with the main railway by a small branch line and all of Burnham's bales of wool would be loaded onto the train right next to the mine and this was no small order of Wolf. Either as Churchill describes the amount of well being shipped would quote fill two or three large trucks and quote and so now that the plan was in place and everything was secured the reality of this next phase of his escape landed upon Churchill. Pretty heavily he wrote of the state of his mind at point and the idea of losing his freedom and it's a lengthy quote but an important one as it really does give us a sense of what Churchill was thinking. Here he wrote quote. I was more worried about this than almost anything that happened to me so far in my adventure when by extraordinary chance one has gained some great advantage or prize and actually had it in one's own possession and been enjoying it for several days. The idea of losing it becomes almost unsupportable. I had really come to count upon freedom as a certainty and the idea of having to put myself in a position which I should be perfectly helpless without a move of any kind absolutely at the caprice of Searching Party at the frontier was profoundly harassing rather than face this ordeal. I would've much preferred to start off on the velde with a pony and a guide and far from the haunts of man to make my way march by March beyond the wide territories of the Boer Republic. However in the end. I accepted this proposal of my generous rescuer and arrangements were made accordingly end quote and with the plan in place and with Churchill committed to it he now had to just sit and wait for the moment of truth then at two. Am in the darkness of the early morning. Hours of December nineteenth. The door to the secret room were. Churchill was still hiding opened and there in the doorway once again stood John Howard. The time had come Aw.