Author Nicholas Hagger tells the Guardian Series about the visit of Winston Churchill to Loughton in 1945, of which he was an eyewitness, and how Churchill set up Iraq, where Nicholas worked in 1961.

The Allied forces landed in France on D-Day, 6 June 1944. A year later a UK General Election was called and Parliament was dissolved on 15 June 1945. Churchill toured his constituency (which during the war included Loughton, Chigwell and Epping until the boundary was changed for the 1945 Election) on Saturday June 25, 1945.

He spoke at Woodford and then at Buckhurst Hill. He came to Loughton in the late morning and spoke near the War Memorial at King’s Green in front of the King’s Head, across the road from the cricket field. Mrs. Churchill stood beside him in drizzle.

I was there. I was just six and was near enough to touch his right hand, which held a round microphone. An article on June 20, 1945 in the West Essex Gazette (as our paper was then called) is on my study wall. It has a picture, and my mother has arrowed “Nicholas” and “Mr and Mrs. Allwood” (the Methodist Church Minister at that time who took me to hear him).

Churchill congratulated his constituents on looking so fit after all they had endured from rockets and flying bombs (six of which fell on Loughton cricket field in March 1944, leaving a crater near the corner of the High Road and Trap’s Hill in full view from where he was standing).

The article says: “In response to the cheering crowd, he gave the V sign. He showed interest in a streamer outside a Loughton shop displaying the words, ‘Hitlers come, Hitlers go, but there’ll always be a Churchill.’ There was a large crowd at King’s Green, Loughton, and the Prime Minister’s arrival was greeted by a fanfare, sounded by Mr W.T. Garrett of the King’s Head. The crowd then lustily sang, ‘For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow’.

“A welcome to the urban district was given by Mr F.S. Foster, J.P., C.C., chairman of the Chigwell Urban District Council and a prominent supporter of the Conservative cause. There was a rush to get near the car, people even climbing up the War Memorial to get a better view. Mr Churchill spoke of the difficult problems in the political sphere which lie ahead. He said that if he was called away during the Election, Mrs. Churchill would take his place in the constituency.”

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

The West Essex Gazette article covering the visit at the time

He then went to Chigwell for lunch. My grandmother, Mrs. E.G. Broadley, had written to him congratulating him on winning the war and his reply , handwritten on House of Commons notepaper about this time, says: “I thank you sincerely for yr ty [your truly] kind message to me wh [which] I have received and read with great pleasure. Winston S. Churchill 1945.”

Churchill was called away. The Election took place on July 5 but some polls were delayed until July 12. He was called away to the Potsdam conference, which began on July 17 and lasted until August 2. The Election result was declared on July 26: a 12-per-cent swing to Labour, which had a majority of 145 seats. So Churchill left Potsdam in mid-conference, and was replaced by the new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee.

I did not know in 1945 that I would be implementing Churchill’s policy in Iraq. As the Liberal Party’s Secretary of State for the Colonies before he joined the Conservative Party in 1924, he had set up Iraq as a nation-state in 1922 in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire following a conference he led in Cairo in 1921. One of his advisers then was T.E. Lawrence, whose hut on Pole Hill, near Chingford (a replacement for one destroyed by fire built with the help of Bancroft’s boys) has been relocated and preserved at The Warren.

Before leaving England to lecture at the University of Baghdad in 1961 I attended a course at Dunford House, Midhurst, Sussex at which we were told that the UK’s role in Iraq was to maintain Churchill’s policy of keeping Sunnis, Shias and Kurds together, and that I should weld them together in my classroom.

Strangely, the only picture of Baghdad students that has survived from 1961 on the internet is of me sitting with a class of students from the University of Baghdad. (In the 1990s the leader of IS, Al-Baghdadi, was a student at the University of Baghdad.)

Nicholas Hagger will be talking at Loughton Festival about his time in Iraq, his international involvement during the Cold War and Britain’s post-Brexit future at St Mary’s Church at 7.30pm on Wednesday, May 9. Tickets are £3 on the door.