The search lights twinkle on the sea
The silence of a mighty fleet
Portends the tumult yet to be.
The tables of the evening meal
Are spread amid the great machines
And thus with pride the question runs
Among the sailors and marines
Breathes there the man who fears to die
For England, Home, & Wai-hai-wai.
The poem makes reference to cities under the rule of the British Empire including Wai-hai-wai – Weihai in China – Sokoto in Nigeria and Karochaw in Japan.
It was acquired several years ago by Roy Davids, a retired rare manuscript dealer from Great Haseley in Oxfordshire.
Mr Davids, 70, said: “This is the only poem in Churchill’s handwriting as an adult. There is one at Harrow School but that was one he wrote as a boy and it was for a competition.
“The archive at the Churchill College at Cambridge University has never heard of another poem and that is a pretty certain statement.
“I don’t think it’s a bad effort. It is quite competent. It is quite rousing stuff and is an imperial celebratory poem that references cities that stretch the British Empire.
“It is interesting that more than 50 years after the death of the most famous Englishman of the 20th century, we are still discovering new aspects of his life.”
At the time of writing the poem, Churchill was serving as an army war correspondent – a position he chose in order to see the most possible battle. He served in countries including India, Cuba, Egypt and Sudan and wrote dispatches for the Daily Telegraph and the Morning Post.
The poem was produced before Churchill served in the Second Boer War, where he took part in the relief of the Siege of Ladysmith.
Allen Packwood, the director of the Churchill Archive Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge, said: “Of course he was a great writer and orator and he used poetry in some of his famous speeches.
“He was someone who was greatly influenced by poetry and was able to memorise and recite large parts of other people’s poetry.
“But it is rare to find a piece of poetry by him as an adult. I am not aware of any others that exist.
“Having read it, it seems to me that it was part-influenced by Kipling and Tennyson and the sort of poems he would have read at school. “
A spokesman for auctioneers Bonhams said: “We don’t of course usually think of Winston Churchill as a poet but perhaps we should not be surprised to find that he wrote verse.
“He was a man of many parts who, over the course of a long life, threw himself enthusiastically into a whole range of activities beyond his main calling as a politician and statesman.
“The work certainly provides a fascinating extra insight into the life of one of the country’s greatest figures.”
The poem has been given a conservative estimate of £15,000. It will be sold at auction on April 10.
The only known poem by an adult Winston Churchill, written as a young cavalry officer and describing marines on the eve of a naval battle, has come to light.
The wartime leader was an unrivalled speechwriter, prolific author and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, but despite being a lover of poetry, he was only known to have written one poem, as a schoolboy at Harrow.
Now a 10-verse poem penned over two pages in blue crayon by Churchill while he was serving in the army has emerged for sale at auction in London.
The poem is a rousing celebration of the British Empire and of going to war to defend her, and describes anxious sailors and marines ahead of a battle. It is said to have been influenced by Kipling and Tennyson.
It is signed by Churchill and was written over two sides on the headed notepaper of his cavalry regiment, the 4th Hussars, in about 1898. He would have been 24 years old.
Two of the 10 stanza of the work, titled ‘Our Modern Watchwords’, read: