Chapter 63

First Evangelistic Campaign in British Isles

From the book Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong
By Herbert W. Armstrong

Now I should like to get back once again to the year 1952. In recent chapters I have been covering the development of Ambassador College, the growth of the Plain Truth, the progress of the broadcast up to the abc network transcontinental, on through the television program, and the policy of daily broadcasting.

But, after all, this is my autobiography—the story of my life. Of course, this great Work of God into which the living Christ plunged me actually is my life. The progress of the college, the broadcasting and the publishing are the activities to which my life is devoted. But then, there is also the more personal phase of these activities.

Getting to Europe

The second commencement at Ambassador College was held on Friday afternoon, June 6, 1952. Our elder son, Richard David, whom we always called Dick, received his B.A. degree that afternoon, along with others.

Dick was a devout student of the French language, and a great life-dream in his mind had been to travel in France and to visit Paris. I had told him that I intended sending him there after graduation, but somehow that seemed so impossibly distant I don’t think he ever let himself accept seriously the idea he would really go.

Then one day in my car, probably in February 1952, driving home from the college, I told him I was planning for him to go to France as soon as he graduated. I remember how startled and elated he was. For the first time, he realized that his dream of seeing France was actually going to come true. Immediately he was on cloud nine!

Then a week or so later it seemed as if the trip might have to be called off, due to finances. But in the campus newspaper, the Portfolio, dated March 13, 1952, the big headline across page 1 said: “Herman and Dick Will Take Trip.” It had, by then, been planned for Dick and Herman Hoeh to go together for a summer in Britain, France and Europe to look into possibilities of expanding the fast-growing Work into Europe.

This story in the campus paper announced that tickets had been purchased on a steamship line sailing from Quebec, Canada, for Liverpool, England. Each young man had made the trip possible by managing to pay two thirds of the fare out of his own pocket. Dick would take a portable tape recorder along to send back important interviews to be heard on the World Tomorrow program. The graduation date had been advanced from June 8 to June 6, so these two men could leave in time for the sailing, June 11, for Liverpool.

Dick Drafted

Then something happened! The trip appeared to be canceled after all! Dick received “greetings” from “Uncle Sam.” He was ordered to report for induction in the Army!

Our other men students had been given the classification of 4-D, as theological students. But Dick had not been converted when the college started, and he had registered as a major in electronics and in French. He had been in charge of the radio studio when first installed. He had taken the full theological course required of all students, but had not registered it as his major. Consequently his Selective Service Board had not given him the 4-D, but a deferred classification as a student.

Now he was about to graduate, his draft board sent him an induction notice. Immediately I contacted the chairman of his board. I learned that the matter had passed completely from this board’s jurisdiction the moment the induction notice had been sent. During his college years Dick had been converted, baptized, and was about to be put into the ministry full time, on graduation. The board chairman said the board would have, under those conditions, changed his classification to 4-D, but it was now too late. It was out of their jurisdiction. The only possible official who could now cancel the induction was the state chairman of Selective Service at Sacramento.

The next day I was in Sacramento. I explained the circumstances, and that passage had been purchased to send Dick to France in the full-time ministry of the Church. I explained that he was our only minister who could speak, read and write French fluently. The Church had been waiting for his graduation to open its work in France. Serious harm would come to the Church if he were prevented from going.

Also I explained the unique, yet most thorough theological training provided ministerial students at Ambassador.

On hearing the facts, the State selective headquarters not only telephoned Pasadena to cancel Dick’s induction and reclassify him 4-D, but also sent notification to all other state chairmen that Ambassador College in their judgment qualified according to the meaning and intent of the Selective Service Act as a recognized theological institution.

It was an 11th-hour reprieve from the death of the trip to France. Dick was to have appeared for induction the very next morning. As it was, he was reclassified 4-D, and given draft board approval to be absent from the United States and take the trip to Britain and Europe.

They spent some time in London, both in educational and theological research, and in checking every possible avenue for expanding the Work to Britain and Europe.

I do not know now whether it was in London, Paris or at Luxembourg, but they learned of the possibility of getting the program on Radio Luxembourg, most powerful commercial radio station in the world. On hearing this, I went immediately to New York to contact the New York representative of this giant station. And that, truly, was the beginning of getting the gospel, which Christ Himself brought and preached, into Europe and Britain!

While in London, they became acquainted with two brothers, William and John Cordas-Cousins, manufacturers of machine tools, whose sister we knew in Pasadena. In later years these brothers were a great help to Dick in getting established, and the Work started, in London.

In Paris, where Dick spent a month of the summer, he found that his French was very good—without “foreign” accent. They traveled through Germany, where they wrote articles on the phenomenal upsurge postwar comeback of Germany. They also visited Italy and traveled as far as Belgrade, capital of Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Returning to Pasadena, Dick became associate instructor of French at the college.

Radio Luxembourg Opens Door

In the fall of that year, time did finally open to us on Radio Luxembourg. But it was altogether different from broadcasting to an American audience. Luxembourg is a small country sandwiched in between Germany, Belgium and France—and its powerful signal heard in several other countries. Their very commercial life depends on being careful in what not to allow to be said over their powerful facilities. They allow no political propaganda not even any allusions to anything political. And, in accepting religious broadcasts, the station obviously enforces strict rules that no offense is given to any religion or religious belief.

In speaking on biblical prophecy, dealing with today’s world events, we soon learned we had to become very familiar with their policies, lest our analysis of today’s world news be construed as an allusion to things political.

November 22, 1952, was a historic day for us!

On that day I recorded the first broadcast for Radio Luxembourg!

I have written many times about how Christ opened the giant door of Radio Luxembourg to proclaim His gospel to Europe precisely 19 years—one time-cycle—after the beginning of the Work in 1934. The door of radio first opened on the first Sunday in 1934. Our first broadcast to Europe occurred the first Thursday in 1953—the first week in January both times!

But we did not plan it that way! God did!

My November 22 recording was rejected by the station. A second try was rejected. The third time I had finally come to comprehend clearly the station policies—and it was accepted! It went on the air the first week in January 1953!

Dick Returns to London

Our broadcasting on Radio Luxembourg, at first, was a 4:15 p.m., Thursday afternoon time. It was on a broadcast band that reached almost all Europe, but did not bring a big response from England. An English-language program could be understood by only a small minority of the people of Europe, where so many different languages are spoken.

Nevertheless, it did bring letters from listeners. And soon we were shifted to the 11:30 p.m. time on the well-known “208” beamed directly over the British Isles.

Now it became necessary to make plans to handle the mail response. Dick planned to return to London. First, we purchased a car for him, through the British Rootes motorcar corporation. Through their branch office in Beverly Hills, we purchased a little compact car—a Hillman-Minx—to be delivered to Dick upon arrival in London.

So, in February 1953, Dick flew, alone, to London. There he arranged for a London mail address, at that time known to thousands all over Britain—“bcm (British Crown Monomarks) Ambassador, London, WC1.”

He remained in London, handling the mail, until September, when he returned to Pasadena. Old Prof. Mauler-Hiennecey had retired, and Dick now took over the French-language department at the college.

The British Monomarks office forwarded the mail direct to Pasadena. Dick then began organizing the British and European mailing list in our mailing office. The Plain Truth and all requested literature had to be mailed to European listeners from Pasadena. This was very unsatisfactory and had to be remedied as soon as possible. But Dick was required in the classroom for that college year, until a new French professor could be appointed.

In the spring of 1954, the British mail situation was becoming desperate. We needed to establish an office in London. We placed a request for a teacher of French with the teachers’ placement bureau in Los Angeles, and I appointed Dick to make the selection.

Under most unusual circumstances Mr. Dibar K. Apartian, who had been reared in French-speaking Geneva, and spent much time in France, applied. Dick interviewed him.

“He’s just the man we want,” Dick told me. He was—and still is! Under Mr. Apartian the French department has grown into a big operation. He became the “voice” of the French-language version of The World Tomorrow. He is also editor of the French-language Plain Truth.

On April 2, 1954, our dean, registrar and professor of science, Dr. Hawley Otis Taylor, died. He had completed seven years, lacking two months, as head of the faculty at Ambassador College. With Prof. Mauler-Hiennecey also gone, our own graduates were beginning more and more to fill up the faculty. Dr. Taylor was 77 years of age when he died. His last seven years were devoted to helping establish the highest of academic and scholarly standards at Ambassador.

We Revisit London

While Dick had been in Pasadena during the 1953–54 year, his little Hillman-Minx car had been left in England with the Cordas-Cousins brothers. In May 1954, plans were laid for Dick to return again to London—this time with Roderick C. Meredith. They sailed on the Queen Elizabeth June 16 to handle the British and European mail and further the Work overseas.

It was now time that I personally inspected that situation abroad, where the Work had now secured such a firm foothold. Mrs. Armstrong and I sailed, August 5, 1954, on the new, fastest ship in the world, the S. S. United States. We had now been on Radio Luxembourg a year and a half. A large listening audience had been built up. The mailing list had grown.

Our son Dick, with Roderick Meredith and the Cordas-Cousins brothers, were standing on the dock at Southampton to greet Mrs. Armstrong and me, as we debarked from the giant steamer United States. We had made reservations at the Dorchester Hotel where we had stayed on our 1947 visit. The Dorchester representative at the Southampton docks arranged for transporting our steamer trunk via the boat train to the hotel.

We loaded our hand luggage into the automobiles. I think Roderick Meredith rode back to London with the Cousins brothers. Mrs. Armstrong and I crowded ourselves into Dick’s little Hillman-Minx, and Dick drove us to London.

A short distance out of Southampton Dick stopped at a small teahouse where we partook of the British custom of late afternoon tea.

Planning Meetings in England

Arriving in London I thought it well to make personal contact with as many of our radio listeners as possible. To arrange for booking halls for meetings and placing some newspaper advertising, I decided to engage a London advertising agency. I contacted the advertising managers of a couple of leading London newspapers on Fleet Street. They recommended the Frederick Aldridge, Ltd., agency. I contacted Mr. Philip Aldridge at the agency offices.

This agency had handled the Billy Graham evangelistic campaign in London, which had gained world attention. Mr. Frederick Aldridge had handled this account, and so his brother and partner, Mr. Philip Aldridge, was engaged as the World Tomorrow advertising representative for Britain. He handled our account for several years.

From our mailing list we knew our largest groupings of listeners centered around London, Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Glasgow, Scotland. We planned meetings in Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester and London.

The halls were booked, beginning September 14. Then announcements were mailed to those on the mailing list within those areas, and announcements arranged to go out on the program on Radio Luxembourg at the proper time.

Meanwhile we were free for other things.

My wife wanted to go to King’s Lynn, north of London on the sea, where her maternal great-grandfather had been a Methodist minister. Dick drove us to King’s Lynn in the Hillman-Minx. En route we passed through Cambridge where we stopped for lunch. It was interesting to have our first view of one of these famous English universities. The various colleges scatter over most of the city of Cambridge. We walked through one of the halls, visited the cathedral, and enjoyed the beauty of the stretches of lawn alongside the riverbank.

Also we stopped off a short while at Ely, to visit the huge old cathedral of Ely. It was then mostly or altogether in disuse, and sadly in need of repair if it were to be maintained at all. This is one of the very large cathedrals built by the Roman Catholics during the Middle Ages, now reeking with age. It has since undergone considerable repair. It is, of course, now one of the Church of England cathedrals.

At King’s Lynn we searched out the little Methodist church where Mrs. Armstrong’s great-grandfather had been pastor. A much larger addition had since been added since he died more than a century ago. We searched for his grave. Actually the graveyard where he was buried had been destroyed, for the building of a structure of some kind, but all the tombstones had been piled in an adjoining lot. We were just about to give up our search when one of us stumbled onto the great-grandfather’s tombstone.

Later we drove in the Hillman-Minx on the Continent, crossing the English Channel on a ferry.

We were taken all through the station at Radio Luxembourg. Then we drove on to Germany. Dick showed us the incredible recovery from the war, everywhere evident. Even the progress since his visit in 1952 was unbelievable—yet it was there in plain sight. After visiting Frankfurt, Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf, we drove into Holland.

As a boy I had read stories about Holland—Hansel and Gretel and others. I had read of Haarlem, and supposed it to be a little village. I was amazed to find it a big city—and Rotterdam as big as San Francisco—with Amsterdam as big as Cleveland, Ohio, and bigger than Pittsburgh, or Boston, or many major American cities. We also drove through The Hague, about as large as Rotterdam. Then back through Belgium, and another ferry across the Channel to the white cliffs of Dover in England.

This was the 10th of September. It was good to rejoin Roderick Meredith in London. We had enjoyed and profited from the trip on the Continent. But always, after being on the Continent, it seems just like coming home to be back in England! After all, the British and Americans are the same people. Certain national differences have developed through the last two centuries, but we are the same people—and both nations ought to remember that.

And NOW! UK Speaking Tour

Late Sunday afternoon, September 12, Mrs. Armstrong, Dick and I started driving north in the Hillman-Minx. Over the weekend, our then advertising agent from Beverly Hills, California, Jack Parmalee, flew in to London. He wanted to attend the meetings on the speaking tour. He and Roderick Meredith met us in Belfast on Tuesday morning. They had driven from Dublin in a rented car after, it seems in a not-too clear memory, having flown to Cardiff, Wales, and then to Dublin.

We stopped off Sunday evening for dinner at a hotel in St. Albans. Little did we dream, that Sunday evening in September 1954, that we would, within a few years, have a college already larger than the Pasadena College was then, with a St. Albans mail address!

After dinner we drove on north, bypassing Birmingham, and arriving in Manchester around midnight. Next morning we continued north. It was the first opportunity for Mrs. Armstrong and me to see northern England, and we found it a very interesting experience. We stopped at Carlisle for lunch. As a boy I had often visited a small town in Iowa named after this northern England city. It was just 12 miles south of Des Moines where I was born and reared. An uncle and aunt lived there, with a son—my cousin—just a year younger than I.

Carlisle is only a few miles from the Scottish border. Soon after lunch we were driving westward in Scotland. In the late afternoon we reached Stranraer. There was considerable excitement—and no little suspense—concerning our ability to get passage on the evening ferry across the north channel of the Irish Sea. We had dinner in a hotel near the docks while anxiously awaiting the verdict. If we failed, I might have missed the following night’s meeting at Belfast entirely. We finally persuaded an official to let us on. There were more cars and passengers than they could accommodate.

It was interesting watching the cranes pick up Dick’s car, swing it from a cable through the air, and drop it down onto the ship. But soon we were steaming the 36-mile distance to Larne, Northern Ireland, where we had hotel reservations for the night.

Next morning, we drove the short distance down to Belfast, and met Roderick Meredith and Mr. Parmalee. We visited the hall that had been engaged for our meeting—one seating about 1,000 or 1,200 people. We found everything would be in readiness for the meeting. Then we went “sightseeing” around Belfast and vicinity.

We had heard of a very old historic place of ancient Druid worship a few miles outside Belfast known as the Giant’s Ring. We drove out to it. Then we proceeded to the giant shipbuilding yards at Belfast. The size of this operation was truly astonishing. Belfast is a major port.

Evening came, and time for the meeting. Arrangements had been made for ushering in people at the hall, so we did not appear until five or 10 minutes before time for the service. The large hall, located in the very heart of the city center business district, was well filled. We found approximately 750 people waiting for us.

There had been a small advertisement in the newspaper giving notice of the meeting, but no attempt had been made to draw any audience beyond our own interested radio listeners. So an audience of 750 was a very, very warm welcome to Belfast. People had come from miles around. One had pushed another interested listener a great distance in a wheelchair to a bus, in order to attend. My message that night was on “What’s Prophesied for Britain.”

The message was not intended to be for entertainment. This was my first opportunity to speak in person before an overseas audience. The time was serious, and the message was serious.

I said: “Last week, and part of the week before, I spent five days in Germany. And what I saw, in a Germany only eight years ago almost shattered from the war, was emphatic evidence that the world war is not yet over! We are now merely in the second recess of the war.

“What is prophesied for the United Kingdom, and for the United States? I have crossed America and the Atlantic Ocean to tell you things I can’t say on the radio. What I’m now going to say is not popular! But it is as certain as the rising and setting of tomorrow’s sun! Yet on beyond it all, after our peoples have been punished as no nations ever were before, world peace is coming, in our time!”

The audience showed tremendous interest!

After the service our two cars were driven on a boat. We all had sleeping accommodations on the boat for the night. Next morning we were docked at Glasgow.

That night another good audience, equally warm and friendly and interested, assembled in a hall in downtown Glasgow. The crowd there was smaller—perhaps 450 or 500.

Thursday we drove down to Manchester. The hall there was on the third or fourth floor of a building. There was only the one lift (elevator to our American readers). The hall here was smaller, but we had an overflow crowd, much to the displeasure of the lift operator. Extra chairs had to be brought into the auditorium, and several had to stand. I must have spoken about an hour or a little over, but after about 45 minutes the lift operator came in, interrupted the service, and wanted me to stop talking so he could close up the lift and go home.

But I had come a long distance to deliver a super-serious life-and-death message to hundreds of my radio listeners, and I was not going to cut that message off to please a disgruntled lift operator. The hall had been engaged for the entire evening. A good many had to hear more of this man’s bad attitude before everybody had finally been taken to the ground floor, after the meeting was dismissed. And I was so thoroughly disgusted with his uncalled-for ill behavior, I expressed myself rather sharply to him as I descended in the final trip of the lift for that night.

The crowd there was slightly smaller than at Glasgow, but still an overflow crowd.

First Convert Baptized

On Friday we drove back to London. We had a request from a lady at Crewe, home city of the Rolls-Royce factory, for baptism. So we drove by way of Crewe. She was Mrs. Edna Palin. We found that she operated a beauty shop for women in front of her home. We also met Mr. Palin and talked to him. We were satisfied that Mrs. Palin really was ready for baptism. She knew of a river—or, I believe probably more properly, an irrigation stream—some few miles from town. We drove there. And my son Richard David performed the very first baptismal service resulting from this Work on this side of the Atlantic. Later, after the Work was better established in Britain, Mr. Palin was baptized by one of our other ministers.

Returning to London, we had meetings scheduled in a very nice downtown hall for the following Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, September 21 to 23.

While in London, a certain coincidence reminded us very much of the Ambassador College campus in Pasadena. Mrs. Armstrong and I were staying at the Dorchester Hotel, and Dick and Roderick Meredith at the Cumberland, only a few blocks away. But when we called them on the telephone, their hotel was on the ambassador exchange; and when they called us, the Dorchester was on the Mayfair exchange. And, as I think most readers know, Mayfair is the name of one of our principal girls’ student residences at Pasadena.

We returned to the United States on the S. S. America, a very beautiful ship.

Continue Reading: Chapter 64: First Middle East Tour