Organisation reinstates photo of leader and issues statement following backlash
A charity set up in honour of Sir Winston Churchill has denied it rebranded itself over the former prime minister’s “unacceptable” views on race.
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust renamed itself the Churchill Fellowship and removed all photographs of the wartime leader from its website after publishing a statement calling his views on race “widely seen as unacceptable today, a view that we share”.
In a June 2020 post titled “Racism is unacceptable”, the charity acknowledged there was “controversy about aspects of Sir Winston’s life” – but added that he was “internationally admired for his wartime leadership in saving Britain and the world from Nazism”.
The organisation was accused of attempting to “rewrite history” and “cancel” the former leader after a 1,400-word tribute describing him as a “much-loved leader” also reportedly disappeared from the site.
The charity has since appeared to U-turn on part of its decision after an image of Churchill was reinstated on the website.
Julia Weston, chief executive of the Churchill Fellowship, insisted the name change was not an attempt to “disown him” in a statement released on Thursday.
“Last month we simplified our name to ‘The Churchill Fellowship’,” she said. “We did so not because we are disowning Sir Winston, but because over many years we have found that, in a simple practical sense, the name was confusing to people and did not explain what we do.”
Ms Weston said the name change had been “carefully considered” for two years and went ahead after consultation with hundreds of fellows.
The charity, whose chairman is Churchill’s grandson Jeremy Soames, was set up using mainly public donations after the death of the former prime minister in 1965.
The idea for the fellowship was developed in the last years of Sir Winston’s life and with his approval.
The scheme is an educational programme which offers opportunities for all UK citizens to study practical topics abroad and share what they have learned with their community or profession in the UK.