A story of Churchill, General Smuts, a bodyguard who shot himself - and lobster from Babbacombe

Extract from Winston Churchill letter

Part of the Churchill letter - Credit: Submitted

What do famous wartime hero and former cigar smoking Winston Churchill and Torquay's Cary Arms have in common. Lobster - Babbacombe Bay lobster to be precise.

The wartime owners of the iconic Babbacombe business made sure delicious samples were delivered  to Number 10 Downing Street for the legendary warhorse.

Now the Cary Arms has released details of three letters, dated November 1942 and June 1943, saying just how much he and others enjoyed the lobster.

A brief letter from Churchill’s private secretary thanks Mrs Cox and her husband Mr Cox, then proprietors of the Cary Arms, for their kind gift of lobster.

A second and third letter brings the story to life. A personal handwritten letter from Walter H. Thompson, personal bodyguard to Churchill for over 18 years, goes into great detail regarding the gift of lobster and how two of the three were shared by Sir Winston General Smuts, then in his second term as Prime Minister of South Africa and honorary Field-Marshall of the British Empire.

Det Insp Inspector Thompson goes on to explain how a mysterious ‘Miss S’ will be writing separately to offer thanks herself and how she is pleased with the some plants which were also sent as a gift.

The Cary never saw the letter, but moving forward to June, 1943, and the identity of ‘Miss S’ becomes clear whilst writing to the Cary Arms to offer thanks for another gift of lobster.

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This time it was for a personal gift to Mr Thompson who was convalescing in hospital which may have been linked to the time a faulty safety catch on his revolver resulted in him shooting himself in the pelvis.

Miss 'S’ is in fact Mary Shearburn, Churchill’s Junior Secretary and later to be Mrs Thompson, marrying soon after the end of the war.

Now to celebrate the unearthing of the letters the Cary has  opened the terrace bar alongside a weekly pop-up lobster BBQ in honour of Sir Winston.

The Lobster BBQ is available for resident guests and by reservation only on Saturday lunch times until August 28.