One degree of separation from Churchill

Winston Churchill was without question one of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen/warriors.

He led Great Britain through its “darkest hour,” the Blitzkrieg launched by the Nazi air force during the Battle of Britain. PBS, as it does so well, is chronicling Churchill’s life in a three-part series shown on KACV-TV, Amarillo’s public television station. The second installment airs Sunday at 7.

It tells of the Battle of Britain and how Churchill rallied the Brits to ultimate victory over the Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler.

http://www.pbs.org/churchill/

But I want to digress a bit and declare with this post that I have one degree of separation from the great British leader, which is to say a member of my family actually had a close encounter with him. I think that means I’m one degree separated from Churchill.

What the heck, if it doesn’t mean such a thing, well, it should.

My late father, Pete Kanelis, served in the Navy during World War II. Most of his combat duty occurred in the Mediterranean Sea, during the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. When he wasn’t manning an anti-aircraft gun on the deck of the ship to which he was assigned, Dad performed a number of boatswain’s mate duties.

One of them was to stand guard, along with a British marine, outside a conference room where Churchill was meeting with the Allied commander of naval forces in the Med. Dad’s guard duty was captured in a photograph published in the London Daily Mail. The picture was interesting in this regard: The Brit stood about 6-foot-4 inches tall, while Dad topped out at about 5-foot-9.

As Dad told the story, the two of them snapped to attention as the meeting broke up. Churchill came out of the conference room, chatted up the British marine, then turned to Dad, patted him on the head and said, “Well done, Yank.”

I’ve looked for many years for film footage of that event, thinking that some newsreel photographer had a camera rolling. Alas, it’s not to be.

My father, though, had a brush with one of the world’s most heroic leaders — and for that I am so very proud.

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