‘When my grandad met hero Churchill on big day for Leeds’

May 16th, 1942 visit of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to Leeds.
May 16th, 1942 visit of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to Leeds.
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It was the day more than seven decades ago when 25,000 people gathered in Leeds city centre to hear the words of the nation’s war hero Winston Churchill.

And the memories of May 18, 1942, still live on in the form of photos kept by the descendants of a local dignitary who was centre stage on the momentous day.

May 16th, 1942 visit of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to Leeds.

May 16th, 1942 visit of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to Leeds.

Businessman Hyman Morris was Lord Mayor of Leeds at the time of the visit and can be seen with the war-time Prime Minister as he gave his speech.

The photos of the impromptu speech on the steps of Leeds Town Hall and Churchill’s visit, which was not publicised in advance, were sent to the YEP by Mr Morris’s great-grandson Joe Breckner after being passed down the generations.

His mother Audrey Brechner, 83, who now lives in Middlesbrough, was in attendance at the event and remembers being given the day off school with her brother.

She said: “I was only 11 at the time but I have very clear memories of it. Churchill gave my grandfather a cigar which he never smoked. I don’t know what he did with it but he never smoked it.

May 16th, 1942 visit of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to Leeds.

May 16th, 1942 visit of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to Leeds.

“I am nearly 84 now, I was 11 at the time. I do remember it and how excited we were, and how thrilled my grandfather was because it was a great honour. I have got Churchill’s autograph somewhere. When he went to the Civic Hall there was an official book all the dignitaries signed. My autograph book was put next to it so I got a lot of signatures as well.”

Mr Morris, a Jewish immigrant who fled from the Russian Empire, was the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Leeds. French leader Charles de Gaulle and the Princess Royal also visited the city during his term in office.

Winston Churchill and his wife came back to Leeds three years later, in June 1945, where they were reportedly greeted by a “dense cheering crowd”. In October 1953 the Prime Minister was granted the freedom of the City of Leeds.

Despite being a national hero in the period immediately after World War Two, his Conservative party were defeated in the General Election on July 5, 1945. January 24, 2015, saw the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death.

Ominous sky in Leeds
Leeds Bridge
River Aire

Photograph taken by Gary Hope
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