In 1919, the world's first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight happened, and Rolls-Royce engines provided the power to make it happen. Marking the 100th anniversary of the 20th-century milestone, Rolls-Royce crafted a limited-edition line of Wraith luxury cars with jaw-dropping nods to the flight. (source)

100 years ago, Alcock and Brown "made the first non-stop transatlantic flight." Rolls-Royce is now capitalizing on this historic event by producing 50 "Wraith Eagle VIII" cars. Featuring very prominently in the marketing is a quote by Winston Churchill, for example in the linked Rolls-Royce press release and at 0:57 of this Rolls-Royce Youtube video (emphasis added):

"I do not know what we should most admire - their audacity, determination, skill, science, their aeroplane, their Rolls-Royce engines - or their good fortune." — Winston Churchill

I am interested in whether Churchill actually mentioned Rolls-Royce engines specifically or if Rolls-Royce marketing is inventing this. Performing a Google Search for results before March 1, 2019 gives just 4 relevant results (here, here, here, and here), none of them particularly credible. Noticeably, The Daily Mail omits Rolls-Royce in there version of the quote:

‘I don’t know what we should admire most in our guests,’ [Churchill] said at the Savoy Hotel reception, ‘their audacity, their determination, their skill or their good fortune.’

Performing an unrestricted search gives many pages with the quote and the Rolls-Royce car such as MSN, Motor Authority, and Drive Tribe. This supports that Rolls-Royce has popularized the quote.

Is this quote properly attributed to Winston Churchill? Did he specifically mention "Rolls-Royce," as is mentioned in the Rolls-Royce versions of the quote?

  • 8
    Did a British politician say something complementary about a British company? Why is this called into question?
    – JPhi1618
    Jul 1, 2019 at 16:02
  • 1
    @JPhi1618 I am questioning this because 1. This would have happened 100 years ago. I cannot easily verify this. I have tried and, to me, it seems this quote is only widely known today because of Rolls-Royce. 2. This is featuring very prominently in Rolls-Royce promotional material. Turns out that Rolls-Royce actually engraved this quote below the handle of the Wraith VIII (see here). Is a fictitious quote engraved on a rare car? Jul 1, 2019 at 20:34
  • @JPhi1618 3. It's personally interesting to me from a historical aspect too. If I were giving a speech in honor of aviators that did something historically significant, would I be praising the manufacturer of their aircraft engine? I mean, it's way too easy for Rolls-Royce to make this stuff up. It doesn't appear plausible to me. Then again, my perspectives aren't that of the world. Jul 1, 2019 at 20:35
  • @JPhi1618 For point 3, I mean to clarify. I would not expect Churchill to make a reference to Rolls-Royce in the manner of the quote. It seems too made-up (or too good to be true/too perfect for marketing). Jul 1, 2019 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


There is no reason to doubt that Churchill explicitly mentioned Rolls-Royce in the context of the quote.

A Google Books search limited to books published before 1960 returns at least four publications that feature the Churchill quote including the Rolls-Royce reference:

  • Jackson, G. G. (1930). The world's aeroplanes and airships, p. 173.
  • IPC Transport Press Limited (1944). Flight International, p. 639.
  • BBC (1954) London Calling, p. 12.
  • Wallace, G. (1955). The Flight of Alcock & Brown, p. 302.

[…] their science, their Vickers-Vimy aeroplane, their Rolls-Royce engines – or their good fortune. All these were necessary – and all of them contributed […] The world's aeroplanes and airships

When one considers all the factors I really do not know what we should admire the most in our guests – their audacity, their determination, their skill, their science, their Vimy-Vickers aeroplane, their Rolls-Royce engines, or their good fortune. All these were necessary, and all of them contributed to their achievements, and to the event which has brought us all together here this afternoon, to cheer the victors of the first non-stop Atlantic flight. Flight International

"I do not know what we should admire the most," he said, "their audacity, their determination, their science, their skill, their Vickers Vimy aeroplane, their Rolls Royce engines, or their good fortune; for whatever we should admire most we are celebrating their stupendous achievement which has done as much as anything in history to add to man's growing understanding of the air." London Calling

Google Books doesn't show me the 1955 quote, and there are some differences in wording. However, all three quotes that I could check agree in that according to them, Churchill explicitly mentioned "Rolls-Royce engines".

[EDIT] As the comments reveal, the OP is a skeptical mind indeed who is not easily convinced that the whole quote is not a fabrication even though it is cited for instance in a BBC publication. Thus, he asked for a 1919 source that confirms that Churchill really praised the contribution of Rolls Royce to the first transatlantic flight. Personally, I was already happy with the Google Books results, but I did go the extra mile and checked the Times Digital Archive for their coverage of the event.

And indeed, I found a transcript of the speech that Churchill gave on occasion of the ceremony that awarded the Daily Mail price for the first direct flight across the Atlantic. The speech was published on Saturday, June 21, 1919 on page 7 (link may be pay-walled). As it is, the transcript is word for word identical to the quote printed in Flight International reproduced above. So, all this confirms that yes, Churchill did indeed praise a British engine manufacturer for their contribution in the first transatlantic flight (unless we are so much of an skeptic that not even this quote from 1919 can convince us that it's not made up). [END EDIT]

Incidentally, the name of the aircraft "Vickers Vimy" is also explicitly mentioned in these quotes, but it is missing in the plaque that is shown in the Rolls-Royce promotional video that you've linked.

  • 7
    Vickers were bought out by Rolls-Royce in 1999 and no longer exist. I'm guessing Rolls-Royce didn't want to highlight a fallen former competitor; this is their celebration, after all.
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 1, 2019 at 9:53
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    "We bought them. We own them. Their legacy is ours to do with as we see fit, and it didn't make good ad copy."
    – Ben Barden
    Jul 1, 2019 at 15:44
  • 5
    @F1Krazy - It is true that a Vickers company was bought by Rolls Royce (the aeroengine company) but the part of Vickers that built aeroplanes had previously gone to British Aircraft Corporation. in 1960 and is now part of BAE Systems. Meanwhile Rolls Royce Motors split from the main aeroengine company in 1971, was briefly owned by Vickers, and is now owned by Volkswagen calling itself Bentley. The logo and trade mark was licensed by BMW who built a new company around it, so the 50 "Wraith Eagle VIII" cars really have nothing to do historically with Alcock and Brown's flight
    – Henry
    Jul 1, 2019 at 23:17
  • @BarryHarrison: See my edit.
    – Schmuddi
    Jul 4, 2019 at 20:10
  • @Schmuddi I cannot believe I missed your comment! Great source! I never said the BBC fabricated the quote. Misattribution can easily happen in mainstream news 30 years after the fact. Have a checkmark! Jul 8, 2019 at 22:21

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