Sir Winston Churchill (and a Roorkhee)


An eagle-eyed reader spotted this photo at the National Portrait Gallery in London – Sir Winston Churchill in 1944 in North Africa with Field Marshal Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis (sorry, had to include the full name) and Wladyslaw Anders, a Polish army general.

And look! To Churchill’s right is an excellent example of a Roorkhee chair with canvas covers. The chair has square blocks at the tops of the legs, a type I have seen before but never built. If my memory serves me right the feet finish with somewhat of a stake-like point, perhaps to dig into the terrain.

After building about 25 Roorkhee chairs since researching my book “Campaign Furniture,” the amusing fact is that I haven’t built one for myself. I still have just enough latigo leather and mahogany to do the job. I just have to find the time.

Read more about this photo from its description at the National Portrait Gallery here.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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10 Responses to Sir Winston Churchill (and a Roorkhee)

  1. The Roorkhee that I built was made for someone else. It turned out quite well (after I made a second set of leather for it…someone ruined the first set trying to use the wrong sewing machine). I admired the look of it, but candidly, they don’t really work in an interior setting due to the very low sitting height. The photo above shows where they belong; in the outdoors. The one I made rests, unused, in a basement.


  2. Churchill proves that all furniture is campaign furniture when you have enough power.
    More to the point, the good Field Marshall’s chair seems to be larger than the dimensions in your book. Trick of the eye given the relatively small stature of Churchill and crew or an example of a larger chair?


    • Damien says:

      I think Genaral Alexander had nearly the same size as Churchill (169cm or one inch shorter as Napoleon in Imperial units 🙂


  3. Fun side note: Wladyslaw Anders was the commander of the Polish II Corps, which had a Syrian brown bear as a mascot. They’d feed him beer as a treat (cigarettes, too) and by the time they fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino, he was helping carry ammunition crates for the mortar crews shelling Nazi positions.


  4. bronzy935 says:

    Is the seat unusual in that there is only a fore-and-aft piece of canvas. Nothing side to side to pull the sides together?


  5. jpassacantando says:

    Great shot of the Roorkhee in action. It needs to be noted, however, that the man who saved the free world preferred the barcalounger


  6. Only the Brits would have an easy chair available on campaign in the middle of a war.


  7. Dan Cash says:

    As long as we’re finding roorkhee chairs, if you can get your mitts on Have Gun – Will Travel, season 6, episode 27, “The Savages,” (writer Gene Roddenberry) there’s one in the first three or four minutes of that episode that looks very much like Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander’s chair up there. (The photo at the National Portrait Gallery is much sharper and thanks much for linking to that.) The only real difference I could see is that in this image the canvas is one big loop, while the one in the HGWT episode looks like one layer with end loops.

    I give the set people on HGWT props for using a lot of authentic equipment even though the series is set sometime in the 1870’s so the chair hadn’t been invented yet. Still, not bad for a low budget show from the early sixties.

    I recorded the episode out of curiosity. About fifteen minutes after I started watching it my wife came down from upstairs asking me why I was hitting the replay button so much. “What’s so special about watching a guy sit down?”


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