Concept, Foundation and Organisation
After World War II many honours were conferred on Sir Winston Churchill from all over the world and many physical memorials were erected in the form of statues and buildings. In 1962 the Duke of Edinburgh asked Sir Winston what type of memorial he would like so that the world could remember him. The concept of an unusual type of memorial, to be set up after his death, pleased him very much and Sir Winston suggested something like the Rhodes Scholarships, but available to all people and on a much wider basis.
This led to the concept of travelling Fellowships, bearing his name, to give opportunity to enable ordinary people from the participating countries to travel overseas to meet people and to learn. The concept was developed jointly by the English-Speaking Unions of the Commonwealth and of the United States. Australia was among the countries that laid plans for a nationwide appeal on the death of Sir Winston Churchill to set up a National Churchill Trust.
Although Churchill had thoroughly approved the project when it was first cleared with him by the English-Speaking Union in the 1950’s, in order not to upset Sir Winston in his declining years about planning for actions after his death, it was kept secret at Lady Churchill’s request, until Churchill died. The planning for the appeal to raise funds for the establishment of a Churchill Trust in Australia nevertheless continued under the code name Operation “G” (for Gratitude) under the leadership of the then Counsellor (later Sir) William Kilpatrick. It was so thorough that immediately on Churchill’s death on the 24th of January 1965, a nationwide appeal for funds was launched by Sir Robert Menzies with Counsellor Kilpatrick as the Chairman of the Appeal Committee. There was a generous response by the Commonwealth and State Governments and by Australian companies and individuals. The Returned Services League brilliantly planned and executed a nationwide doorknock on ‘Churchill Memorial Sunday’ Sunday the 28th of February, 1965 – only four weeks after Churchill’s funeral.
The very willing national response of Australia’s Returned Servicemen in conducting what was the greatest one-day doorknock in Australian history showed the admiration and respect that Australian fighting men and women of World War II held for Churchill.
The very generous response of the Australian people to this appeal was undoubtedly due to their admiration for and gratitude to the great world figure in whose memory the Trust was being established. The one-day doorknock raised 911,000 Pounds ($1,822,000). By the time the contributions and pledges from the Commonwealth and State Governments, Australian companies, institutions and individuals had been collected, the Appeal target had more than doubled. 2,206,000 Pounds ($4,412,000) was raised.
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was established to administer not only the total funds raised by the 1965 Appeal, but also the Churchill Fellowship award scheme. The Trust has its National Office at Churchill House, Canberra. The Board of Directors is responsible for the management of the funds invested and the conferring of Churchill Fellowships. All Directors serve in an honorary capacity.
The Trust is assisted in the initial selection of applicants for Fellowships by Regional Committees in all States and Territories. All Committee Members also serve in an honorary capacity