Raab Acquires Winston Churchill’s Famous POW Letter To His Captor

Winston Churchill’s Famous POW Letter To His Captor, Written At Age 24, Up For Sale For First Time

The newly found historical document, cited by Churchill himself in his autobiography, valued at $36,000, has been in an institution until now

PHILADELPHIA, PA – May 11, 2017 – The Raab Collection, the nation’s leading dealer in important historical documents, announced that it is offering for sale Winston Churchill’s famous letter as a POW, which he presented to his captor, a soldier who had shown kindness to him while he was being taken to a detention camp.  The powerful note, which urged favorable treatment for his enemy should he himself be captured, has never before been offered for sale publicly and has been in a museum until now. It is valued at $36,000.

“This is a powerful testament to Churchill’s character, sense of fairness, and a moving piece of history,” said Karen Pearlman Raab, principal at The Raab Collection.

Historical Background: 24-year old Winston Churchill was a correspondent for the Morning Post newspaper, and he immediately set out to Africa when war broke out in South Africa between England and the Dutch immigrants there – the Boers. This was 1899, and the war would launch Churchill to fame. The only way he could reach close to the front was by boarding an armored train sent out for reconnaissance every day.  On the morning of November 15, 1899, Churchill took one of these trains.  The Boers, however, set a trap for the English train, which crashed.  Churchill had no weapon and was alone and so surrendered. He was young man at the time but came from an elite family. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had been an eminent politician, and the family bloodline went back to the Duke of Marlborough. The Boers knew that in him they had a valuable bargaining chip, so decided to treat Churchill as an officer POW.  Hendrik Spaarwater was ordered to escort the prisoners and to hand them over to the local police, who would escort them to the prisoner of war camp in Pretoria.  Spaarwater showed real consideration for the British prisoners, and Churchill would never forget.  He wrote in his book, London to Ladysmith Via Pretoria: “Then we said ‘good-bye,’ and I gave… Spaarwater, a little slip of paper setting forth that they had shown kindness and courtesy to British prisoners of war, and personally requesting anyone into whose hands the papers might come to treat them well, should they themselves be taken by the Imperial forces.”  This is that very note.

Autograph note signed, Volksrust, November 17, 1899. “The bearer, Mr HG Spaarwater, has been very kind to me and the British officers captured in the Escort armoured train. I shall be personally grateful to anyone who may be able to do him any service should he himself be taken prisoner. Winston S Churchill.”

Provenance: The family of the recipient retained this memento for many decades, finally transferring ownership to a museum. Raab obtained it from that museum directly.

About The Raab Collection:  The Raab Collection has handled many of the most important historical documents to reach the market and worked with the families of famous Americans in the sale and preservation of their family treasures, among them Neil Armstrong, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, William Henry Harrison, and Ronald Reagan. Nathan Raab, a member of the Board of Directors of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, is also a contributor to Forbes.com.  To learn more visit www.raabcollection.com or follow @raabcollection on Twitter.

Join Us


Stay informed about new historical documents, historical discoveries, and information for the educated collector.