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Transition time Churchill’s victorious visit to Switzerland

On September 19, 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave a historic speech in Zurich in which he called for a “United States of Europe”. Exactly 50 years after his death, looks back at some extraordinary photos of his visit. 

Churchill, who had been removed from office by voters the previous year and was now Leader of the Opposition, arrived in Switzerland with his wife and one of his daughters at the end of August for what was believed to be a relaxing three-week holiday during which he could work on his memoirs. 

In fact, the combative 71-year-old spent large chunks of his time working on speeches and the Conservatives’ new political manifesto, in addition to firing off countless letters to friends all around the world, warning them of the dangers of his bête noire, communism, and the threat posed by Russia. 

But when he wasn’t dictating or painting, Churchill went on various car journeys through Geneva, Bern and Zurich, receiving rapturous welcomes from audiences and people lining the roads wherever he went. 

In his speech at the University of Zurich he pointed to the existence of a “remedy” that, if taken, “would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and happy as Switzerland is today”. The solution – “we must build a kind of United States of Europe” – went down far better in Switzerland than at home in Britain. 

(Images: Keystone and RDB, text: Thomas Stephens,

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