This I Believe

Moran, Charles McMoran Wilson, Baron


  • Charles Wilson, Sir Winston Churchill's personal physician, recounts how one judged a person during World War I and the importance of altruism and selflessness to determining a person's character.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Charles Wilson, Lord Moran, is Sir Winston Churchill’s doctor and a former president of the Royal College of Physicians. He was responsible for organizing British hospitals in the Second World War and took a leading part for the medical profession in the negotiations leading to the setting up of the National Health Service. His association with Sir Winston has taken him all over the world, and in its course he has seen his patient through two serious attacks of pneumonia. His creed is the result of long years of varied and valuable experience. Here is Lord Moran.
When I was a boy, my father told me this story: “One morning,” he began, “we were at breakfast when something was said which hurt my brother’s feelings. He rose from the table and, without a word, left the room. We never saw him again. He had gone to America, we heard later, and after that we heard no more.” I wanted my father to tell me more of this uncle. But when I grew up, it was the fact that my forbear acted without counting the cost, which brought home to me how deeply he felt things.
But it was the First World War which convinced my generation that it was what a man did, not what he said, which revealed what he truly believed—deeds, not words.
In our rough way, we checked the depth of a man’s convictions by what he was prepared to do, and it was a pretty stiff test he had to pass. At first, it was true, the War was just a great adventure—the War, Rupert Brooke—but that phase passed. As the months went by in Ypres Salient, the character of the War changed. One day I walked up a trench, and when I returned, my dugout had been blown up by a shell. You said, “What luck!” But to yourself, “Can it last?”
Men were left to fight their own secret battle with fear, and there were some who could not pass that acid test of a man. The selfish desire to live was too much for them. They reported sick, or went on leave and did not return. They had been our closest friends but now we cut them out of our thoughts, as if we’d never known them.
There were others who hung on. These good fellows came back when their wounds were healed, like moths unable to leave a flame.
Of course, it may be that in peace you cannot divide the world like that, into the selfish and the unselfish. Anyway, when the War was over, we found people at home wanted to forget the War, so we bottled up what we had learned in France of the measurement of men. But in our hearts, we think we know a man when we see one, and that getting on in life is not everything. And now I suppose at the end of my life I ought to be able to look back on what I have tried to do, and from that declare what I believe.
But I doubt whether the average Englishman’s deepest convictions are as clear-cut as that. Twice in my lifetime I have seen boys grow to men, only to be consumed by war, and I have come to think of this almost every day. Because of this, I have been fumbling for another way of living, less material, less sterile than that which has brought us to this pass. Meanwhile, I believe that consideration for others is the only test of virtue and that altruism must become the ultimate sanction of man’s moral code.
That was Charles Wilson, Lord Moran, physician to Sir Winston Churchill and one of England’s leading medical men.