11 JANUARY 2003, Page 23

Subbing Winston

From Mr Richard McNeill Sir: May I add a name to those mentioned by Andrew Roberts (The secret of Churchill's gold', 28 December 2002) as being benefactors of Winston Churchill — that of Sir Abe Bailey, the South African mining magnate and founder of Lonrho?

I had the privilege of helping to edit a biography of Sir Abe by his son, Jim Bailey, who frequently talked about his father's close ties to Churchill. The two had become firm friends during the Boer war. During the Twenties and Thirties Winston was a frequent dinner guest at Abe's London home at 38 Bryanston Square (later demolished by the Luftwaffe). Abe's eldest son, John, was married, though briefly, to Churchill's daughter Diana in the early Thirties.

According to Jim Bailey, funds were sent out from Bryanston Square to help a financially hard-pressed Churchill when he was a lone voice urging British rearmament — a cause which Abe passionately endorsed.

Whatever the amounts, Abe could afford it. He was for a period reputedly the world's largest private landowner, owning most of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and large tracts of South African farming land, in addition to his mining holdings.

Sadly, although he completed the biography, Jim Bailey — himself a farmer, newspaper owner and Battle of Britain pilot — died two years ago, before it could be published. His heirs have, to my knowledge, yet to see it into print.

Richard McNeill

Johannesburg, South Africa