Sir Winston Churchill
IntroductionSir Winston Churchill was one of the greatest statesmen in all history. Churchill reached the peak of his fame as the heroic prime minister and war leader of Britain during World War II. He became a symbol of hope to the British as they struggled to keep their freedom throughout the war.
Winston Churchill Before World War 2Winston Churchill was born on November 30, 1874, the eldest son of Lord Randolph Churchill and Jennie Jerome. Churchill had an unhappy childhood. He loathed most of his time at school, although he loved to read history and poetry and was fascinated by soldiers and battles, perhaps foreshadowing his later role as a war leader.
In 1894 Churchill graduated from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, but having served in India and the Sudan he resigned his cavalry commission in 1899 to become a correspondent during the Boer War. A daring escape after he had been captured made him a national hero, and in 1900 he was elected to Parliament as a Conservative and quickly made his mark. He later switched to the Liberal party in 1904. In 1908, the year of his marriage to Clementine Hosier, he became president of the Board of Trade in the Liberal cabinet. From 1911 to 1915 Churchill served as first lord of the admiralty and vigorously modernized the navy, preparing for war.
Churchill's role in World War I was controversial and almost destroyed his career. Naval problems and his support of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign forced his resignation from the admiralty.
In 1922 Churchill lost his seat in Parliament. He returned two years later, however, to become chancellor of the Exchequer. During the depression years (1929-39) Churchill was denied cabinet office. At the same time he warned against the ambitions of Nazi Germany and urged that Britain should match Germany in air power. As World War II drew nearer, the warnings were seen to be justified. When Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, Churchill's views were finally appreciated, and public opinion demanded his return to the admiralty.
Churchill succeeded Neville Chamberlain as prime minister on May 10, 1940. He wrote later: “I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this trial.”
Winston Churchill During World War 2During the dark days of World War II that followed, Churchill's pugnacity and rousing speeches rallied the British to continue the fight. He urged his compatriots to conduct themselves so that, “if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
Early in World War II, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. The British refused to give in despite the huge odds against them. Churchill’s personal courage, the magic of his words, and his faith in victory inspired the British to “their finest hour.” The mere sight of this stocky, determined man - a cigar in his mouth and two fingers raised in a “V for victory” salute - cheered the people. He seemed to be John Bull, the symbol of the English people come to life. (Churchill, Sir Winston, World Book, 1982)
By successful collaboration with President Franklin Roosevelt, Churchill was able to secure military aid and moral support from the United States. After the Soviet Union and the U.S. entered the war in 1941, Churchill established close ties with leaders of what he called the “Grand Alliance.” “Traveling ceaselessly throughout the war, he did much to coordinate military strategy and to ensure Hitler's defeat. His conferences with Roosevelt and Stalin, most notably at Yalta in 1945, also shaped the map of postwar Europe.” (Churchill, Sir Winston, Microsoft Encarta, 1995)
By 1945 Churchill was admired throughout the world, his reputation disguising the fact that Britain's military role had become secondary. After failing disastrously in his role in World War I, Churchill had led the Allies to victory in the greatest conflict the world had ever seen.
Winston Churchill After World War 2Unappreciative of the popular demands for postwar social change, however, Churchill was defeated by the Labour party in the election of 1945. When he first heard the results of this election he remarked: "There may well be a landslide and they have a perfect right to kick us out. That is democracy. That is what we have been fighting for." Having served his role as a war leader for Britain, Churchill was dismissed as prime minister.
Churchill criticized the “welfare state” reforms of the Labour party and warned in his “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946, of the dangers of Soviet expansion. He became prime minister again in 1951, but this time age and poor health prevented him from providing dynamic leadership and he resigned in 1955.
Churchill received the Nobel Prize for literature having written many famous works, and a knighthood in 1953. He devoted his last years to painting and writing. Winston Churchill died on January 24, 1965, at the age of 90. Monarchs and Presidents mourned the passing of a leader whose place in history was assured.
Churchill entered the service of his country in 1895 as an army lieutenant under Queen Victoria. He ended his career in 1964 as a member of the House of Commons under Queen Elizabeth II, the great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Few men ever served their country so long or so well. (Churchill, Sir Winston, World Book, 1982)
ConclusionChurchill's death in 1965 marked the end of an era in British history. He witnessed and participated in Britain's transformation from empire to welfare state, and its decline as a world power. Most importantly, however, is the fact that with his sheer stubborn courage he led the British people, and with them, the democratic Western world, from the brink of defeat to a final victory in the greatest conflict the world has ever seen.
Winston Churchill QuotesVictory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
-Winston Churchill, 13 May 1940
We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
-Winston Churchill, 4 June 1940
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'
-Winston Churchill, 18 June 1940
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
-Winston Churchill, 20 August 1940
Never give in - never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
-Winston Churchill, 29 October 1941
All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.
-Winston Churchill, 14 May 1947
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