Most know the U.S. joined WWII a few years after it began. But did you know that earlier we participated through the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, a means for the U.S. to provide military aid to foreign nations during the war?
The United Kingdom recognized they would need to train a large number of pilots but couldn’t easily do so at home due to risk of enemy interference. Because of this need, and as a result of the Lend-Lease Act, six different British Flying Training Schools (BFTS) were opened across the U.S., the first one in Terrell, TX. Terrell continues to honor the more than 2,100 Royal Air Force cadets who trained there with its No. 1 BFTS Museum, located at Terrell Municipal Airport.
Our client, the City of Terrell, is a big supporter of the BFTS museum and asked our help in planning, organizing, and publicizing a weekend of events featuring Jonathan Sandys, the great-grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain during WWII.
Lead Like Churchill Keynote
Jonathan’s first stop was at Terrell High School where he spoke to students and community members about Churchill as a leader with Lead Like Churchill. While Churchill was quite unpopular prior to WWII, he overcame adversity and failure to ultimately become one of the greatest leaders in history. One who stood up to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and was ultimately credited with saving Britain. Jonathan shared how his great-grandfather embraced faith, courage, and integrity.
Jonathan’s message to the youth was especially encouraging: stand up for what you believe in and do not let others discourage you along the way. Much like Churchill, Jonathan overcame adversity when faced with the challenge of dyslexia and naysayers who doubted his ability.
The interactive presentation was well received, with most attendees lined up after to meet Jonathan and purchase his book, God and Churchill.
No. 1 BFTS Museum Grand Re-Opening Tour
One objective of the weekend was a guided tour of the No. 1 BFTS Museum with Museum President Rudy Bowling. The visit was timed with the grand reopening of the museum, which had been closed for renovation.
Jonathan was fascinated with the stories, photos, and artifacts that pieced together the account of how these young men who were in America training to defend his U.K. homeland became part of Terrell’s culture. In fact, many of the cadets’ family members are responsible for the collection in the museum.
Lunch with a few of Terrell’s Dignitaries
For lunch, we met former Mayor Hal Richards; the President of the Terrell EDC, Danny Booth, and his wife; the Director of Public Works, Glenn Caldwell; and the Riter Hulsey Public Library Director, Becca Anderson. The casual lunch was an opportunity for some of the City’s leaders to engage with Jonathan and discuss his great-grandfather and his visit to Terrell. Restaurant owner, Rick Carmona, joined us occasionally as well. Everyone left with a copy (or two) of Jonathan’s book.
Books and Crannies Book Signing
Our next stop was Books and Crannies, located in historic downtown Terrell. The nostalgic store is housed in the old Iris Theatre, built in 1925. They even operate a small theater that seats about 35 people. When we arrived for his book signing, the place was hopping with people anxious to hear from Jonathan and purchase his book, God and Churchill. Jonathan briefly spoke about what sets his book apart from others: it’s the first to dive extensively into Churchill’s faith in God. In it Jonathan demonstrates several stories of prophecy and divine intervention throughout Churchill’s life.
No. 1 BFTS Museum Hangar Dinner & Dance
Our final stop was the No. 1 BFTS Museum Hangar Dinner & Dance, an annual fundraiser for the Museum. Jonathan briefly spoke to the audience about the significance of the U.S., and particularly the City of Terrell’s part in WWII. Jonathan was pleased to visit with the last remaining RAF cadet, Mr. Eric Gill, and thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment provided by the Waxahachie High School Band, who played numbers from the 40s, accompanied by a few wonderfully talented singers. Dancers from the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas joined in on a few numbers, all decked out in their WWII appropriate attire. The young entertainers enjoyed Jonathan’s remarks and asked to get a picture with him in front of the PT-17 Stearman biplane.
A Powerful, Gracious Speaker
Jonathan was a kind and humble guest. He impressed crowds with his knowledge and passion about not only his great-grandfather and history, but also his servant’s heart. He believes in the Rotarian motto of “Service Above Self.” Not surprisingly, he acknowledged and honored veterans and educators at each stop. He especially enjoyed the opportunity to share his stories of overcoming adversity with the youth.
His message is appropriate for and received well by all ages. If you ever need a fabulous speaker for your events, I’d urge you to consider Jonathan. You can learn more about him at www.leadlikechurchill.org or his blog Never Surrender.
And, if you find yourself looking for a great weekend outing, we’d love to have you visit the City of Terrell and the wonderful museum and businesses featured in this blog.