London Letter

Raleigh is immortal—at last!

BEVERLEY BAXTER December 19 1959
London Letter

Raleigh is immortal—at last!

BEVERLEY BAXTER December 19 1959

Raleigh is immortal—at last!

London Letter

BEVERLEY BAXTER

If you had been walking down Whitehall a few weeks ago you would have seen a crowd of people (some wearing toppers and others wearing bowlers or even caps) gathered around a veiled statue of Sir Walter Raleigh. You also would have noted that the American ambassador, Jock Whitney, was in full view as was Lord Baillieu who is chairman of the English-Speaking Union.

The people in the passing omnibuses stared at the gathering and made such comments as occurred to them at the moment while the sentries at the Horse Guards’ barracks on the opposite side performed their duties as if they were a rival attraction and had nothing to do with the show across the road. A drizzling, half-hearted rain gave the final London touch to the scene.

At the appointed hour Lord Baillieu took up his position supported by Lieut.-Col. John Dodge, DSO, who is the petpetual chairman of the Ends of the Earth Club. To give a feminine touch to

it all, the lively and venerable ;i| Nancy Viscountess Astor was chat|| ting strenuously with Viscount Hailsham. the former chairman of ijl the Conservative party.

Zero hour having arrived Lord Baillieu managed to make himself |

heard above the rumble of traffic, §f but hardly had he got underway when there was a noisy organized demonstration by members of the if National Society of Non-Smokers.

In fact their disapproval was so violent that Raleigh might well have trembled on his stone base.

You will no doubt remember that if Sir Walter was the first European to discover the pleasant use to §

which tobacco can be put.

Not content with their raucous if

vocal interruptions the non-smokers’ brigade handed out printed pamphlets entitled: "Don't make |

an ash of yourself” — which must be one of the worst puns of all i| time. f

A squad of police appeared from |

nowhere and told the anti-smokers |

to behave themselves but the leader || of the protest

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London Letter

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committee was not to be silenced. “I’m just trying to give you some advice!” he shouted. “I was caught smoking by the vicar at the age of twelve in the back of the vestry in Birmingham. I've got nothing against Raleigh. I think he had a most unjust end. He shouldn’t ought to have been beheaded.”

Whereupon the ceremony took form with appropriate speeches made by Whitney, Lord Baillieu and also the Chaplain of the Fleet as well as one or two others.

However, Sir Walter Raleigh is not the only hero of my story despite the fact that from now into the unwritten future he will stare with his bronzen eyes at the traffic of Whitehall and the headquarters of the Horse Guards on the other side of the road. My other hero is Colonel Johnny Dodge who has been a close friend of mine for a quarter of a century and becomes more astonishing as the years go by.

He is a handsome, strongly built fellow of about sixty who has a laugh like a clap of thunder, the vitality of a bull, and is related to Winston Churchill. His father was an American who died some years ago and his mother, Hon. Mrs. Lionel Guest (her second marriage), is nearing her first hundred years. I mention this merely to indicate the reason why Colonel Dodge inherited such a superabundance of energy.

He drafted Baxter

In the 1914 war he joined up at once and in a desperate battle on the Western Front was captured by the Germans. Hardly had he reached the prison camp when he began to plan his escape. Day and night he worked on it and managed somehow to dig a tunnel which eventually gave him and his companions their chance. They got away, although some were later captured, and eventually Dodge got through the enemy lines and made good his escape.

After the war he joined a stockbrokers’ firm and married an attractive young American woman who, in due course, bore him two sons. But he wanted to do something positive to encourage a closer understanding among the English-speaking peoples — especially the Americans and the British.

So he founded the Ends of the Earth Club for diners and became the perpetual chairman of it. Periodically, when some famous American came to Britain the Club gave a complimentary dinner at Claridge’s Hotel. The years went on. and so did the dinners. In 1930, I noticed that in the printed list of membership there was a star opposite my name, and I asked Dodge for an explanation. "My dear fellow,” roared Dodge, “you are one of the committee of the club." Apparently 1 had been a member for twelve years but there is no record of the committee ever having met.

When the Second World War began, Johnny Dodge joined up once more. And to show that history does repeat itself he was again captured in a fierce engagement and was — once more — sent to a prisoners’ camp from which he escaped.

In size, in spirit and in courage, he is the very reincarnation of Porthos in Dumas’

famous book The Three Musketeers.

As there were no more wars for the time being, Dodge became a stockbroker again. I cannot state why and when he decided that there should be a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh. Probably I was on the committee but if so the committee never met — or not to my knowledge.

Officialdom was against the idea and there were highly placed people who stated that there were historic reasons for leaving Raleigh to history. Not to be balked. Dodge went out to North Carolina to remind the inhabitants what they owed to Raleigh for the discovery of tobacco and its ultimate solace to mankind.

Most of the North Carolinians did not know much beyond Sir Walter’s boosting of tobacco and the story of him spreading his cloak for the great Elizabeth to walk upon.

The Queen loved to listen to Raleigh’s stories of adventure. In fact she made a favorite of him until the handsome young Earl of Essex attracted her fancies. There is ample proof that the Virgin Queen was much attracted by men even if she never took one in holy matrimony.

It is a pity that Colonel Dodge was not there to advise his hero because Raleigh began to get into a lot of trouble, and eventually Elizabeth chucked him into the Tower — but being a sensible woman, she let him out after a time.

However, James I, who succeeded her, became tired of Raleigh's adventuring and plots so, in the manner of those times, Raleigh was duly decapitated which, understandably, brought his story to an end.

Even as I set down these words I wonder if more care should not be taken before giving to some figure of the past the immortality of a statue. But certainly Raleigh has won his place in Whitehall which is the great highway that carries the trafiic from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square.

Yet what can be said for the gigantic statue of the royal Duke of Cambridge on a terrific horse, also in Whitehall? Beyond the distinction of having been made a field marshal and marrying an actress, neither the crowds who pass by nor history itself knows anything about him.

A hundred yards or so to the south is another gigantic statue depicting Field Marshal Earl Haig on a particularly prancing horse. Yet cruel as the comment may seem. Haig was the spirit of disaster in the 1914 war. His tactics were those of the far-off Boer War and he stubbornly refused to listen to the urgings that the British armed forces be placed under Loch as the generalissimo of the Allied forces. Only the determination of Lloyd George forced Haig's hand.

In due time, there will be an official statue to Winston Churchill but. unless tradition is swept aside, there would be a period of long years before Churchill's statue could be placed either in Whitehall or in the Houses of Parliament.

Where is Shakespeare's London monument? There is a small bust of him in Leicester Square near a public lavatory.

But even so. I feel that Sir Walter Raleigh just gets by. Despite the incense of tobacco smoke which I am enjoying at this very moment, and which is making my eyes water, I am grateful to him.

At any rate, there is Raleigh in all his glory, complete with sword and cloak while Lord Baillieu and His American Excellency Jock Whitney look at the great man now made immortal in bronze.

At noon and at twilight—and at dawn and by moonlight—the man that Johnny Dodge worshipped will keep guard as the people pass by. it