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Winston Churchill in Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Winston Churchill with Aristotle Onassis in Tenerife in 1959

On February 21, 1959, at half past eight in the morning, the yacht Christina, owned by the Greek shipowner Aristotle Onassis, arrived at the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. And a large number of onlookers came to the South Pier to see one of the best vessels of this type that had arrived at the port. 

She was 99.06 meters long and had a seaplane and a car on board. This luxurious yacht had cabins to accommodate 14 guests, in addition to her owner, those for his secretary, a sergeant from Scotland Yard, who served as his escort, and the 42 people who made up the crew. The billionaire was so cranky that the boat, the seaplane, and the car all shared the same colours: white and blue.

While the Greek tycoon was in Casablanca, along with his wife Athina and other companions, he learned that Winston Churchill, 84, was on holiday at the Mamounia hotel in Marrakesh, with his wife Clementine and their eldest daughter, Diana Spencer-Churchill. Onassis took his seaplane and flew to the beautiful Moroccan imperial city to meet the former British prime minister. During the meeting he suggested that he accompany him on the trip that he was going to make to the Canary Archipelago, since in Tenerife he had to deal with certain issues regarding his fleet, Olympic Maritime S.A.

Churchill gladly accepted the invitation, for the Islands were familiar to him because his mother had been here on holiday and had told him of their beauty; furthermore, in 1941, when he was prime minister, Churchill had been the main protagonist of Operation Pilgrim (to occupy the Canary Islands if Franco allied himself with Hitler).

On February 18, the two families left the port of Safi, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, arriving at the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife on the 21st, at 8:30 a.m.

Sir Winston Churchill, after taking a look at the city, preferred to remain on board and said only to the reporters: "I am not in the mood for an interview with the press, but I greet this beautiful island and the Spanish people very cordially through the journalists". Onassis went ashore, heading to La Marina street, to meet with Mr. Willian Lucas, director of Cory Hermanos S.A., the consignee of his ships in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

As William Lucas had known Churchill since 1949, during a trip in which they coincided on the Queen Mary, returning from the US, the president sent him a letter from London thanking him for the hospitality received in Tenerife.

The two ladies, accompanied by Mary Lucas, wife of the consignee, after touring Anaga Avenue and Rambla de Santa Cruz, headed to Puerto de la Cruz to enjoy that tourist spot and contemplate the beautiful valley of La Orotava.

As the ladies commented to their husbands on returning to the yacht about the beauties of the places they had visited, the illustrious visitors headed to Puerto de la Cruz in their Fiat 500 convertible, driven by Onassis. A white panama hat covered Churchill from the sun.

During the tour of the North Tenerife road they stopped several times to admire the landscape and the wonderful views of Mount Teide and the Valley of La Orotava. Upon arriving in Puerto de la Cruz, they were received by the mayor, Isidoro Luis Carpenter, who invited them to sit on the terrace of the Lido San Telmo pools, where, while they drank some whiskeys, Churchill smoked one of the cigars specially made for him by J. Cuesta in Havana. Onassis paid for the drink, leaving 1,000 pesetas as a tip for the waiter, an amount that tripled his salary for the month. Upon leaving the swimming pools, where Lago Martiánez is located today, a large number of English tourists were waiting for them on Colón Avenue, offering them an affectionate tribute in the form of applause, to which Churchill responded with a smile and with his fingers making the Victory vee.

They returned to Santa Cruz in the official car of the Civil Government, because the temperature had dropped at that time of the afternoon in the North of Tenerife. By nightfall they were back aboard the Christina. At 9 pm that night they offered a dinner to the local authorities, who were accompanied by their respective wives. The civil governor of the province, Santiago Galindo Herrero; the president of the Island Council of Tenerife, Juan Ravina Méndez; the mayor of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Gumersindo Robayna Galván, and the assistant to the British consul, Eric Lionel Fox. It was a pleasant evening, in which there were typical songs and dances, by Los Huaracheros and the Flores del Sur group. The event ended with a toast to the good relations between Britain and Spain. They also visited La Palma and Gran Canaria.

La estancia de Winston Churchill en Santa Cruz de Tenerife

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