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Winston Churchill

The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill KG, OM, CH, FRS (November 30, 1874January 24, 1965) was a British statesman, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. At various times an author, soldier, journalist, and politician, Churchill is generally regarded as one of the most important leaders in British and world history. He won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Churchill's legal surname was Spencer-Churchill, but starting with his father Lord Randolph Churchill his branch of the family always used just the name Churchill in public life. Because of the existence of another author called Winston Churchill, his books were published under the name "Winston Spencer Churchill" or "Winston S. Churchill", though some later printings ignore this.

The Rt Hon. Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Periods in Office: May 10, 1940 to
July 27 1945
October 26, 1951 to
April 7, 1955
PM Predecessors: Neville Chamberlain
Clement Attlee
PM Successors: Clement Attlee
Anthony Eden
Birth: November 30, 1874
Place of Birth: Woodstock,
Oxfordshire, England
Death: January 24, 1965
Place of Death: London
Political Party: Conservative

Early life

Born at Blenheim Palace, near Woodstock in Oxfordshire, Winston Churchill was a descendant of the first famous member of the Churchill family: John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (whose father was also a "Sir Winston Churchill"). Winston's politician father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough; Winston's mother was Lady Randolph Churchill (née Jeanette "Jennie" Jerome) of Brooklyn, New York, daughter of American millionaire Leonard Jerome.

As per tradition, Churchill spent much of his childhood at boarding schools, including Harrow. He was rarely visited by his mother, whom he worshipped, despite his letters begging her to either come or let his father permit him to come home. He had a distant relationship with his father, despite keenly following his father's career. Once, in 1886, he is reported to have proclaimed "My daddy is Chancellor of the Exchequer and one day that's what I'm going to be." His desolate, lonely childhood stayed with him throughout his life. He was very close to his nurse (nannie), Mrs. Elizabeth Everest (nicknamed "Woom" by Churchill), and was deeply saddened when she died.

Churchill did badly at Harrow, regularly being punished for poor work and lack of effort. His nature was independent and rebellious and he failed to achieve much academically. He did however become the school's fencing champion.

In 1893, on his third attempt, he passed the entrance exam and enrolled in the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He entered the college near the bottom of the intake of 102 cadets but when he graduated two years later he was ranked eighth in his class. He was appointed Second Lieutenant in the 4th Hussars cavalry . In 1895, prior to his regiment departing for an extended posting to India, he went to Cuba as a military observer with the Spanish army in its fight against pro-independence rebels. He also reported for the Saturday Review. In 1898 he was attached as a supernumary officer to the 21st Lancers (acting again as a war correspondent) and rode with them at the Battle of Omdurman, taking part in what is commonly thought to be the last full cavalry charge of the British Empire.

The young man in a hurry

As the son of a prominent politician, it was unsurprising that Churchill was soon drawn into politics himself. He started speaking at a number of Conservative meetings in the 1890s. It was noticeable that in the first few years of his political career, and again in the mid-1920s, he frequently used his father's slogan of "Tory Democracy ". Many were to regard Churchill in his early years as being obsessed with continuing his father's battles from fifteen years earlier.

A young Churchill
A young Churchill

In 1899 he was considered as a prospective candidate for Oldham. One of the town's two MPs had died and the other, in ill health, was persuaded to resign so that both seats could be elected together. Churchill found himself thrust into a prominent by-election, alongside James Mawdsley , the Lancashire general secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Cotton Spinners and one of the few prominent Conservative trade unionists. The Liberal candidates were Alfred Emmott and Walter Runciman, who later sat in the Cabinet alongside Churchill. The by-election was dominated by a number of issues, including a Clerical Tithes Bill in Parliament, the brunt of criticism for which fell upon Churchill as a candidate for the governing party and the only Anglican of the four (though he was non-practicising). Facing attacks on the Bill, Churchill repudiated it. He later commented, "This was a frightful mistake. It is not the slightest use defending Governments or parties unless you defend the worst thing about which they are attacked." The Conservative leader in the Commons, Arthur Balfour commented, "I thought he was a young man of promise, but it appears he is a young man of promises." Despite this, Churchill and Mawdsley narrowly lost the marginal seat, though with no harm to themselves as the Conservative government was facing a period of unpopularity. Runciman is reported to have commented to Churchill: "Don't worry, I don't think this is the last the country has heard of either of us."

Churchill then became a war correspondent in the second Anglo-Boer war between Britain and self-proclaimed Afrikaners in South Africa. He was captured in a Boer ambush of a British Army train convoy, but managed a high-profile escape and eventually crossed the South African border to Lourenço Marques (now Maputo in Mozambique). He quickly returned to British controlled South Africa where he joined a South African cavalry regiment and was involved in a number of brutal and bloody battles. During this period he was recommended for a Victoria Cross although Horatio Kitchener vetoed the award.

Churchill later returned to Oldham and used the publicity he had gained to stand again for the seat in the 1900 general election when he was elected for the seat. It was the successful launch of a political career which would last a total of sixty-two years, serving as an MP in the House of Commons from 1900 to 1922 and from 1924 to 1964. He remained politically active even in his brief years out of the Commons. At first a member of the Conservative Party, he 'crossed the floor' in 1904 to join the Liberals over his opposition to protective tariffs.

Winston Churchill (highlighted) as , at the , January 3, 1911
Winston Churchill (highlighted) as Home Secretary, at the Sidney Street Siege, January 3, 1911

Ministerial office

In the 1906 general election, Churchill won a seat in Manchester. In the Liberal government of Henry Campbell-Bannerman he served as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. Churchill soon became the most prominent member of the Government outside the Cabinet, and when Campbell-Bannerman was succeeded by Herbert Henry Asquith in 1908, it came as little surprise when Churchill was promoted to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. Under the law at the time, a newly-appointed Cabinet Minister was obliged to seek re-election at a by-election. Churchill lost his Manchester seat to the Conservative William Joynson-Hicks, but was soon elected in another by-election at Dundee. As President of the Board of Trade he pursued radical social reforms in conjunction with David Lloyd George, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In 1910 Churchill was promoted to Home Secretary, where he was to prove somewhat controversial. A famous photograph from the time shows the impetuous Churchill taking personal charge of the January 1911 Sidney Street Siege, peering around a corner to view a gun battle between cornered anarchists and Scots Guards. His role attracted much criticism. Arthur Balfour asked, "He [Churchill] and a photographer were both risking valuable lives. I understand what the photographer was doing but what was the Right Honourable gentleman doing?"

In 1911, Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty, a post he would hold into the First World War. He gave impetus to military reform efforts, including development of naval aviation and tanks. However, he was also one of the political and military engineers of the disastrous Gallipoli landings on the Dardanelles during World War I, which led to his description as "the butcher of Gallipoli." When Asquith formed an all-party coalition government, the Conservatives demanded Churchill's demotion as the price for entry. For several months Churchill served in the non-portfolio job of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, before resigning from the government feeling his energies were not being used. He rejoined the army, though remaining an MP, and served for several months on the Western Front. During this period his second in command was a young Archibald Sinclair who would later lead the Liberal Party.

Return to power

In December 1916, Asquith fell and was replaced by Lloyd George. However, the time was thought to not yet be right to risk the Conservatives' wrath by bringing Churchill back into government. However in July 1917 Churchill was appointed Minister of Munitions. After the end of the war Churchill served as both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air (1919-1921). On the possible use of gas weapons in quelling uprisings in the British mandated territories of the former Ottoman Empire, Churchill wrote:

I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference of arguing in favour of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragment of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gases: gases can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.

During this time (1919-1921), he undertook with surprising zeal the cutting of military expenditure. However, the major preoccupation of his tenure in the War Office was the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. Churchill was a staunch advocate of foreign intervention, declaring that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle." He secured from a divided and loosely organized Cabinet an intensification and prolongation of the British involvement beyond the wishes of any major group in Parliament or the nation—and in the face of the bitter hostility of labour. In 1920, after the last British forces had been withdrawn, Churchill was instrumental in having arms sent to the Poles when they invaded Ukraine. He became Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1921, and was a signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 which established the Irish Free State.

Career between the wars

In October 1922, Churchill underwent an operation to remove his appendix. Upon his return, he learned that the government had fallen and a General Election was looming. The Liberal Party was now beset by internal division and Churchill's campaign was weak. He lost his seat at Dundee, quipping that he had lost his ministerial office, his seat and his appendix all at once. Churchill stood for the Liberals again in the 1923 general election, but over the next twelve months he moved towards the Conservative Party, though initially using the labels "Anti-Socialist" and "Constitutionalist." Two years later, in the General Election of 1924, he was elected to represent Epping (where there is now a statue of him) as a "Constitutionalist" with Conservative backing. The following year he formally rejoined the Conservative Party, commenting wryly that, "Anyone can rat [change parties], but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat."

He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924 under Stanley Baldwin and oversaw the United Kingdom's disastrous return to the Gold Standard, which resulted in deflation, unemployment, and the miners' strike that led to the General Strike of 1926. This decision prompted the economist John Maynard Keynes to write The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill, correctly arguing that the return to the gold standard would lead to a world depression. Churchill later regarded this as one of the worst decisions of his life. To be fair to him, it must be noted that he was not an economist and that he acted on the advice of the Governor of the Bank of England, Montague Norman (of whom Keynes said: "Always so charming, always so wrong".)

During the General Strike of 1926, Churchill was reported to have suggested that machine guns be used on the striking miners. Churchill edited the Government's newspaper, the British Gazette, and during the dispute he argued that "either the country will break the General Strike, or the General Strike will break the country." Furthermore, he was to controversially claim that the Fascism of Benito Mussolini had "rendered a service to the whole world," showing as it had "a way to combat subversive forces" — that is, he considered the regime to be a bulwark against the perceived threat of Communist revolution.

The Conservative government was defeated in the 1929 General Election. In the next two years, Churchill became estranged from the Conservative leadership over the issues of protective tariffs and Indian Home Rule. When Ramsay MacDonald formed the National Government in 1931, Churchill was not invited to join the Cabinet. He was now at the lowest point in his career, in a period known as 'the wilderness years.' He spent much of the next few years concentrating on his writing, including Marlborough: His Life and Times - a biography of his ancestor, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough - and A History of the English Speaking Peoples (which was not published until well after WWII). He became most notable for his outspoken opposition towards the granting of independence to India.

Soon, though, his attention was drawn to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the dangers of Germany's rearmament. For a time he was a lone voice calling on Britain to strengthen itself and counter the belligerence of Germany. Churchill was a fierce critic of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler. He was also an outspoken supporter of King Edward VIII during the Abdication Crisis, leading to some speculation that he might be appointed Prime Minister if the King refused to take Baldwin's advice and consequently the government resigned. However, this did not happen, and Churchill found himself politically isolated and bruised for some time after this.

Role as wartime Prime Minister

At the outbreak of the Second World War Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. In this job he proved to be one of the highest-profile ministers during the so- called "Bore War", when the only noticeable action was at sea. He organized a strike on German forces in Norway.

Churchill advocated the preemptive occupation of the neutral Norwegian iron ore fields of Narvik early in the War. However, the procrastination of the Chamberlain War Cabinet in approving the operation allowed Nazi Germany to organize an invasion of their own to secure their iron supplies. Chamberlain's fear was that a preemptive occupation of neutral Norwegian territory might bring the ire of the United States; this probably influenced his decision to delay the Norwegian operation until a German invasion of Norway. The British forces did eventually eject the Germans from Narvik but by that stage, France was near capitulation and the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force was about to begin at Dunkirk. It was decided by the British Government to withdraw troops from Norway for the defence of the British Isles and to support the war effort in France.

Despite the failure of this operation, upon Chamberlain's resignation in May, 1940, Churchill was appointed Prime Minister and formed an all-party government. In response to previous criticisms that there had been no clear single minister in charge of the prosecution of the war, he created and took the additional position of Minister of Defence. He immediately put his friend and confidant, the industrialist and newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook in charge of aircraft production. It was Beaverbrook's astounding business acumen that allowed Britain to quickly gear up aircraft production and engineering that eventually made the difference in the war.

Churchill's speeches were a great inspiration to the embattled United Kingdom. His first speech as Prime Minister was the famous "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech. He followed that closely with two other equally famous ones, given just before the Battle of Britain. One included the immortal line, "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." The other included the equally famous "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.'" At the height of the Battle of Britain, his bracing survey of the situation included the memorable line "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few", which engendered the enduring nickname "The Few" for the Allied fighter pilots who won it.

His good relationship with Franklin Roosevelt secured the United Kingdom vital supplies via the North Atlantic Ocean shipping routes. It was for this reason that Churchill was relieved when Roosevelt was re-elected. Upon re-election, Roosevelt immediately set about implementing a new method of not only providing military hardware to Britain without the need for monetary payment, but also of providing, free of fiscal charge, much of the shipping that transported the supplies. Put simply, Roosevelt persuaded Congress that repayment for this immensely costly service would take the form of defending the USA; and so Lend-lease was born. Churchill initiated the Special Operations Executive (SOE), under Hugh Dalton's Ministry of Economic Warfare, which established, conducted and fostered covert, subversive and partisan operations in occupied territories with notable success; and also the Commandos which established the pattern for most of the world's current Special Forces. The Russians referred to him as the "British Bulldog".

 with Winston Churchill during
Dwight D. Eisenhower with Winston Churchill during World War II

However, some of the military actions during the war remain controversial. Churchill was at best indifferent and perhaps complicit in the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 which took the lives of at least 2.5 million Bengalis. Japanese troops were threatening British India after having successfully taken neighbouring British Burma. Some consider the British government's policy of denying effective famine relief a deliberate and callous scorched earth policy adopted in the event of a successful Japanese invasion. Churchill supported the bombing of Dresden shortly before the end of the war; Dresden was primarily a civilian target with many refugees from the East, and was of allegedly little military value. However, the bombing was helpful to the allied Soviets.

Churchill was party to treaties that would re-draw post-WWII European and Asian boundaries. The boundary between North Korea and South Korea was proposed at the Yalta Conference, as well as the expulsion of Japanese forces from those countries. Proposals for European boundaries and settlements were discussed as early as 1943 by Roosevelt and Churchill; the settlement was officially agreed to by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Churchill, and Stalin at Potsdam (Article XIII of the Potsdam protocol).

One of these settlements concerned the borders of Poland, i.e. the boundary between Poland and the Soviet Union (the so-called Curzon line) and between Germany and Poland (the so-called Oder-Neisse line). Despite the fact that Poland was the first country that resisted Hitler, Polish borders and government were determined by the Great Powers without asking the views of the Polish government in exile. Poles who had fought alongside Britain throughout the war felt betrayed. Churchill himself opposed the effective annexation of Poland by the Soviet Union and wrote bitterly about it in his books, but he was unable to prevent it at the conferences.

Churchill, Roosevelt and at the
Churchill, Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference

A part of the settlement was an agreement to transfer the remaining citizens of Germany from the area. (Transfer of Poles didn't need to be approved.) The exact numbers and movement of ethnic populations over the Polish-German and Polish-USSR borders in the period at the end of World War II is extremely difficult to determine. This is not least because, under the Nazi regime, many Poles were replaced in their homes by the conquering Germans in an attempt to consolidate Nazi power. In the case of the post-WWII settlement, Churchill was convinced that the only way to alleviate tensions between the two populations was the transfer of people, to match the national borders. As Churchill expounded in the House of Commons in 1944, "Expulsion is the method which, insofar as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting. There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble... A clean sweep will be made. I am not alarmed by these transferences, which are more possible in modern conditions."

After World War II

Although the importance of Churchill's role in World War II was undeniable, he had many enemies in his own country. His expressed contempt for a number of popular ideas, in particular public health care and better education for the majority of the population, produced much dissatisfaction amongst the population, particularly those who had fought in the war. Immediately following the close of the war in Europe, Churchill was heavily defeated at election by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. Some historians think that many British voters believed that the man who had led the nation so well in war was not the best man to lead it in peace. Others see the election result as a reaction against not Churchill personally, but against the Conservative Party's record in the 1930s under Baldwin and Chamberlain.

Winston Churchill was an early supporter of the pan-Europeanism that eventually led to the formation of the European Common market and later the European Union (for which one of the three main buildings of the European Parliament is named in his honour). Churchill was also instrumental in giving France a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (which provided another European power to counter-balance the Soviet Union's permanent seat). Churchill also occasionally made comments supportive of world government. For instance, he once said[1]:

Unless some effective world supergovernment for the purpose of preventing war can be set up ... the prospects for peace and human progress are dark ...If ... it is found possible to build a world organization of irresistible force and inviolable authority for the purpose of securing peace, there are no limits to the blessings which all men enjoy and share.

At the beginning of the Cold War, he famously mentioned the "Iron Curtain," a phrase originally created by Joseph Goebbels. The phrase entered the public consciousness after a 1946 speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri when Churchill, a guest of Harry S. Truman, famously declared, "From Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere."

Second term

Churchill during his second term
Churchill during his second term

Churchill was restless and bored as leader of the Conservative opposition in the immediate postwar years. After Labour's defeat in the General Election of 1951, Churchill again became Prime Minister. His third government - after the wartime national government and the short caretaker government of 1945 - would last until his resignation in 1955. During this period he renewed what he called the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States, and engaged himself in the formation of the post-war order.

His domestic priorities were, however, overshadowed by a series of foreign policy crises, which were partly the result of the continued decline of British military and imperial prestige and power. Being a strong proponent of Britain as an international power, Churchill would often meet such moments with direct action.

Anglo-Iranian Oil Dispute

The crisis began under the government of Clement Attlee. In March 1951, the Iranian parliament—the Majlis—voted to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) and its holdings by passing a bill strongly backed by the elderly statesman Mohammed Mossadegh, a man who was elected Prime Minister the following April by a large majority of the parliament. The International Court of Justice was called into settle the dispute, but a 50-50 profit sharing arrangement, with recognition of nationalization, was rejected by Mossadegh. Direct negotiations between the British and the Iranian government ceased, and over the course of 1951, the British racheted up the pressure on the Iranian government, and explored the possibility of a coup against it. U.S. President Harry S. Truman was reluctant to agree, placing a much higher priority on the Korean War. The effects of the blockade and embargo were staggering, and led to a virtual shutdown of Iran’s oil exports

Churchill's return to power brought with it a policy of undermining the Mossadegh government. Both sides floated proposals unacceptable to the other, each side believing that time was on its side. Negotiations broke down and as the blockade's political and economic costs mounted inside Iran, coup plots rose from the army, the "National Front" and from pro-British factions in the Majlis.

Churchill and his Foreign Secretary pursued two mutually exclusive goals. On one hand, they wanted "development and reform" in Iran; on the other hand, they did not want to give up the control or revenue from AOIC that would have permitted that development and reform to go forward. Initially they backed Sayyid Zia as an individual with whom they could do business, but as the embargo dragged on, they turned more and more to an alliance with the military. Churchill's government had come full circle, from ending the Attlee plans for a coup, to planning one itself.

The crisis dragged on until 1953. Churchill approved a plan, with help from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, to back a coup in Iran. The combination of external and internal political pressure converged around Fazlollah Zahedi. Over the summer of 1953, demonstrations grew in Iran and, with the failure of a plebiscite, the government was destabilized. Zahedi, using foreign financing, took power, and Mossadegh surrendered to him on August 20, 1953.

The coup pointed to an underlying tension within the post-War order: the industrialized Democracies, hungry for resources to rebuild in the wake of World War II, and to engage the Soviet Union in the Cold War, dealt with emerging states such as Iran as they had with colonies in a previous era. On one hand, spurred by the fear of a third world war against the USSR, and committed to a policy of containment at any cost, they were more than willing to circumvent local political prerogatives. On the other hand, many of these local governments were both unstable and corrupt. The two factors created a vicious circle - intervention led to more dictatorial rule and corruption, which made intervention rather than establishment of strong local political institutions a greater and greater temptation.

The Mau Mau Rebellion

In 1951, grievances against the colonial distribution of land came to a head with the Kenya Africa Union demanding greater representation and land reform. When these demands were rejected, more radical elements came forward, launching the Mau Mau rebellion in 1952. On August 17, 1952, a state of emergency was declared, and British troops were flown to Kenya to deal with the rebellion. As both sides increased the ferocity of their attacks, the country moved to full-scale civil war.

In 1953, the Lari massacre, perpetrated by Mau-Mau insurgents against Kikuyu loyal to the British, changed the political complexion of the rebellion, and gave the public-relations advantage to the British. Churchill's strategy was to use a military stick, combined with implementing many of the concessions that Attlee's government had blocked in 1951. He ordered an increased military presence and appointed General Sir George Erskine, who would implement Operation Anvil in 1954 that broke the back of the rebellion in the city of Nairobi. Operation Hammer, in turn, was designed to root out rebels in the countryside. Churchill ordered peace talks opened, but these collapsed shortly after his leaving office.

Malaya Emergency

In Malaysia, a rebellion against British rule had been in progress since 1948. Once again, Churchill's government inherited a crisis, and once again Churchill chose to use direct military action against those in rebellion, while attempting to build an alliance with those who were not. He stepped up the implementation of a "hearts and minds" campaign, and approved the creation of fortified villages, a tactic that would become a recurring part of Western military strategy in South-East Asia. (See Vietnam War).

The Malayan Emergency was a more direct case of a guerilla movement, centred in an ethnic group, but backed by the Soviet Union. As such, Britain's policy of direct confrontation and military victory had a great deal more support than in Iran or in Kenya. At the highpoint of the conflict, over 35,000 British troops were stationed in Malaysia. As the rebellion lost ground, it began to lose favour with the local population.

While the rebellion was slowly being defeated, it was equally clear that colonial rule from Britain was no longer tenable. In 1953, plans were drawn up for independence for Singapore and the other crown colonies in the area. The first elections were held in 1955, just days before Churchill's own resignation, and by 1957, under Prime Minister Anthony Eden, Malaysia became independent.

Honours for Churchill

Immediately after World War II and his government's electoral defeat, Churchill was offered elevation to the House of Lords as the first-ever Duke of London. Hopeful that his political career was not yet over, he declined.

In 1953 he was awarded two major honours: he was knighted as a Knight of the Garter (becoming Sir Winston Churchill) and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values". A stroke in June of that year led to him being paralysed down his left side. He retired because of his health on April 5, 1955 but retained his post as Chancellor of the University of Bristol.

In 1956 he received the Karlspreis (engl.: Charlemagne Award), an award by the German city of Aachen to those who most contribute to the European idea and European peace.

During the next few years he revised and finally published A History of the English Speaking Peoples in four volumes. In 1959 Churchill inherited the title of Father of the House, becoming the MP with the longest continuous service — since 1924. He was to hold the position until his retirement from the Commons in 1964, the position of Father of the House then passing to Rab Butler.


On September 2, 1908, at the socially-desirable St. Margaret's, Westminster, Churchill married Clementine Hozier, a dazzling but largely penniless beauty whom he met at a dinner party that March (he had proposed to actress Ethel Barrymore, but was turned down). They had five children: Diana; Randolph; Sarah, who co-starred with Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding; Marigold , who died in early childhood; and Mary , who has written a book on her parents.

Clementine's mother was Lady Blanche Henrietta Ogilvy , second wife of Sir Henry Montague Hozier and a daughter of the 7th Earl of Airlie. Clementine's paternity, however, is open to healthy debate. Lady Blanche was well known for sharing her favours and was eventually divorced as a result. She maintained that Clementine's father was Capt. William George "Bay" Middleton, a noted horseman. But Clementine's biographer Joan Hardwick has surmised, due to Sir Henry Hozier's reputed sterility, that all Lady Blanche's "Hozier" children were actually fathered by her sister's husband, Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford , better known as a grandfather of the infamous Mitford sisters of the 1920s.

Churchill's son Randolph and his grandsons Nicholas Soames and Winston all followed him into Parliament.

When not in London on government business, Churchill usually lived at his beloved Chartwell House in Kent, 2 miles south of Westerham. He and his wife bought the house in 1922, and lived there until his death in 1965. During his Chartwell stays, he enjoyed writing there, as well as painting, bricklaying, and admiring the estate's famous black swans.

Last days

Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally, Churchill retired as Prime Minister in 1955 and was succeeded by Anthony Eden, who had long been his ambitious protégé. Churchill spent most of his retirement at Chartwell and in the south of France.

In 1963, pursuant to an Act of Congress, U.S. President John F. Kennedy named Churchill the first Honorary Citizen of the United States. Churchill was too ill to attend the White House ceremony, so his son and grandson accepted the award for him.

On January 15, 1965 Churchill suffered another stroke — a severe cerebral thrombosis — that left him gravely ill. He died nine days later, on January 24, 1965, 70 years to the day of his father's death. His body lay in State in Westminster Hall for three days and a state funeral service was held at St Paul's Cathedral. This was the first state funeral for a non royal family member since that of Field Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar in 1914. It was Churchill's wish that, were French President Charles de Gaulle to outlive him, his (Churchill's) funeral procession should pass through Waterloo Station. As his coffin passed down the Thames on a boat, the cranes of London's docklands bowed in salute. The Royal Artillery fired a 19-gun salute (as head of government) and the RAF staged a fly-past of sixteen English Electric Lightning fighters. The state funeral was the largest gathering of dignitaries in Britain as representatives from over 100 countries attended it, including de Gaulle, other heads of state and government, and members of royalty. It also saw largest assemblage of statesmen in the world until the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

At Churchill's request, he was buried in the family plot at Saint Martin's Churchyard, Bladon, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, not far from his birthplace at Blenheim.

At the same time the funeral took place, people in the United States paid tribute to the friendship between Churchill and FDR, because the funeral took place on January 30, the anniversary of FDR's birth.

Churchill as historian

Churchill was a prolific writer throughout his life, and during his periods out of office regarded himself as a professional writer who was also a Member of Parliament. Despite his aristocratic birth, he inherited little money (his mother spent most of his inheritance) and always needed ready cash to maintain his lavish lifestyle. Some of his historical works, such the History of the English-Speaking Peoples, were written primarily to raise money.

Although Churchill was an excellent writer, he was not a trained historian, and his historical works show many limitations. In his youth he was an avid reader of history, but within a narrow range. The major influences on his historical thought, and his prose style, were Clarendon's history of the English Civil War, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Macaulay's History of England. He had no knowledge of, or interest in, social or economic history, and he always saw history as essentially political and military, driven by great men rather than by economic forces or social change.

Churchill was the last (and one of the most influential) exponents of "Whig history" - the belief of the 18th and 19th century Whigs that the British people had a unique greatness and an imperial destiny, and that all British history should be seen as progress towards fulfilling that destiny. This belief inspired his political career as well as his historical writing. It was an old-fashioned view of history even in Churchill's youth, but he never modified it or showed any interest in other schools of history. Although he employed professional historians as assistants, they had no influence over the content of his works.

Churchill's historical writings fall into three categories. The first is works of family history, the biographies of his father, Life of Lord Randolph Churchill (1906), and of his great ancestor, Marlborough: His Life and Times (four volumes, 1933-38). These are still regarded as fine biographies, but are marred by Churchill's desire to present his subjects in the best possible light. He made only limited use of the available source materials, and in the case of his father suppressed some material from family archives that relected badly on Lord Randolph. The Marlborough biography shows to the full Churchill's great talent for military history. Both books have been superceded by more scholarly works, but are still highly readable.

The second category is Churchill's autobiographical works, including his early journalistic compilations The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898), The River War {1899), London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900) and Ian Hamilton's March (1900). These latter two were issued in a re-edited form as My Early Life (1930). All these books are colourful and entertaining, and contain some valuable information about Britain's imperial wars in India, Sudan and South Africa, but they are essentially exercises in self-promotion, since Churchill was already a Parliamentary candidate in 1900.

Churchill's reputation as a writer, however, rests on the third category, his three massive multi-volume works of narrative history. These are his histories of the First World War - The World Crisis (six volumes, 1923-31) - and of The Second World War (six volumes, 1948-53), and his History of the English-Speaking Peoples (four volumes, 1956-58, much of which had been written in the 1930s). These are among the longest works of history ever published (The Second World War runs to more than two million words), and earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Churchill's histories of the two world wars are, of course, far from being conventional historical works, since the author was a central particpant in both stories and took full advantage of that fact in writing his books. Both are in a sense therefore memoirs as well as histories, but Churchill was careful to broaden their scope to include events in which he played no part - the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, for example. Inevitably, however, Churchill placed Britain, and therefore himself, at the centre of his narrative. Arthur Balfour described The World Crisis as "Winston's brilliant autobiography, disguised as a history of the universe."

As a Cabinet minister for part of the First World War and as Prime Minister for nearly all of the Second, Churchill had unique access to official documents, military plans, official secrets and correspondence between world leaders. After the First War, when there were few rules governing these documents, Churchill simply took many of them with him when he left office, and used them freely in his books - as did other wartime politicians such as David Lloyd George. As a result of this, strict rules were put in place preventing Cabinet ministers using official documents for writing history or memoirs once they left office.

The World Crisis was inspired by Lord Esher's attack on Churchill's reputation in his memoirs. It soon broadened out into a general multi-volume history. The volumes are a mix of military history, written with Churchill's usual narrative flair; diplomatic and political history, largely written to justify Churchill's own actions and policies during the war; portraits of other political and military figures, usually written to further political vendettas or settle debts (most notably with Lloyd George), and personal memoir, written in a colourful but highly selective manner. Today these books are almost useless as historical references. As with all Churchill's works, they have nothing to say about economic or social history, and are coloured by his political views - particularly in regards to the Russian Revolution. But they remain highly readable for their narrative skill and vivid portrayals of people and events.

When he resumed office in 1939, Churchill fully intended writing a history of the war then beginning. He said several times: "I will leave judgements on this matter to history - but I will be one of the historians." To circumvent the rules against the use of official documents, he took the precaution throughout the war of having a weekly summary of correspondence, minutes, memoranda and other documents printed in galleys and headed "Prime Minister's personal minutes." These were then stored at his home for future use. As well, Churchill wrote or dictated a number of letters and memorandums with the specific intention of placing his views on the record for later use as a historian.

This all became a source of great controversy when The Second World War began appearing in 1948. Churchill was not an academic historian, he was a politician, and was in fact Leader of the Opposition, still intending to return to office. By what right, it was asked, did he have access to Cabinet, military and diplomatic records which were denied to other historians?

What was unknown at the time was the fact that Churchill had done a deal with the Attlee Labour government which came to office in 1945. Recognising Churchill's enormous prestige, Attlee agreed to allow him (or rather his research assistants) free access to most documents, provided that (a) no official secrets were revealed (b) the documents were not used for party political purposes and (c) the typescript was vetted by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Norman Brook . Brook took a close interest in the books and rewrote some sections himself to ensure that nothing was said which might harm British interests or embarrass the government. Churchill's history thus became a semi-official one.

Churchill's privileged access to documents and his unrivalled personal knowledge gave him an advantage over all other historians of the Second World War for many years. The books had enormous sales in both Britain and the United States and made Churchill a rich man for the first time. It was not until after his death and the opening of the archives that some of the deficiencies of his work became apparent.

Some of these were inherent in the unique position Churchill occupied as a historian, being both a former Prime Minister and a serving politician. He could not reveal military secrets, such as the work of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park (see Ultra), or the planning of the atomic bomb. He could not discuss wartime disputes with figures such as Dwight Eisenhower, Charles de Gaulle or Tito, since they were still world leaders at the time he was writing. He could not discuss Cabinet disputes with Labour leaders such as Attlee, whose goodwill the project depended on. He could not reflect on the deficiencies of generals such as Archibald Wavell or Claude Auchinleck, for fear they might sue him (some indeed threatened to do so).

Other deficiencies were of Churchill's own making. Although he described the fighting on the Eastern Front, he had little real interest in it and no access to Soviet or German documents, so his account is a pastiche of secondary sources, largely written by his assistants. The same is true to some extent of the war in the Pacific, except for episodes such as the fall of Singapore in which he was involved. His account of the U.S. naval war in the Pacific was so heavily based on other writers that he was accused of plagiarism.

The real focus of Churchill's work is always on the war in western Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa, but here his work is based heavily on his own documents, so it greatly exaggerates his own role. He had little access to American documents, and even those he did have, such as his letters from Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower, had to be used with caution for diplomatic reasons. Although he was of course a central figure in the war, he was not as central as his books suggest, particularly after 1943, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union became the domiant forces on the Allied side. Although he is usually fair, some personal vendettas are aired - against Stafford Cripps, for example.

The Second World War can still be read with great profit by students of the period, provided it is seen mainly as a memoir by a leading participant rather than as an authoritative history by a professional and detached historian. The war, and particularly the period between 1940 and 1942 when Britain was fighting alone, was the climax of Churchill's career and his personal account of the inside story of those days is unique and invaluable. But since the archives have been opened far more accurate and reliable histories have been written.

Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples was commissioned and largely written in the 1930s when Churchill badly needed money, but it was put aside when war broke out in 1939, being finally issued after he left office for the last time in 1955. Although it contains much fine writing, it shows Churchill's deficiencies as a historian at their most glaring. It is generally regarded as tendentious and very old-fashioned, seeing world history as a one-dimensional pageant of battles and speeches, kings and statesmen, in which the English occupy central stage. Events of central importance to modern history, such as the industrial revolution, are scarcely mentioned. Although Churchill's enormous prestige ensured that the books were respectfully received and sold well, they are now little read.


"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

"A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen."

"A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him."

"We have not journeyed across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy."

[On the occasion of the proposed post-war re-engineering of the House of Commons] "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."

[In response to Lady Astor saying "Winston, you are drunk!", Churchill replied] "And you, madam, are ugly. But in the morning, I shall be sober."

[Lady Astor once told Winston "If you were my husband I would poison your drink!", to which Winston replied] "M'Lady, if I were your husband, I should gladly drink it!"

Miscellaneous and trivia

  • Many attribute some of Churchill's extraordinary abilities to his being affected by bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression. In his last years, Churchill is believed by several writers to have suffered from Alzheimer's disease, though the Churchill Centre disputes this. Certainly he suffered from fits of depression that he called his "black dog." Some researchers also believe that Churchill was dyslexic, based on the difficulties he described himself having at school. However, the Churchill Centre and other experts strongly refute this (Source: ).
  • Churchill also overcame a severe stammer and lisp, but some of his speeches were still marred with traces of them. Churchill even thought that these added an interesting element to a speaker's voice: "Sometimes a slight and not unpleasing stammer or impediment has been of some assistance in securing the attention of the audience. . ." [3][4]
  • Churchill's mother was American and some, including Churchill himself, have said that his maternal grandmother was an Iroquois, which would make Churchill the only British prime minister of Native American descent. Research has failed to validate this contention, and some doubt its accuracy.
  • In 1995, a row erupted after the National Lottery spent 12 million pounds of its 'good causes' budget on Churchill's personal papers after his descendants said they were tempted to sell them to American academics. Churchill's family were heavily criticised for not offering the papers to the nation for free.
  • John Lennon's middle name was Winston. His mother named him in reverence of the prime minister.
  • The Churchill cigar size actually was named after him.
  • In July 1944 Churchill requested from the Chief of Staff General Ismay a study on the potential use of poison gas as a means of shortening the war or retaliating against the V-1 and V-2 rockets then falling on London:
I want you to think very seriously over this question of poison gas. I would not use it unless it could be shown either that (a) it was life or death for us, or (b) that it would shorten the war by a year... If the bombardment of London became a serious nuisance and great rockets with far-reaching and devastating effect fell on many centres of Government and labour, I should be prepared to do anything that would hit the enemy in a murderous place. I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention. We could stop all work at the flying bomb starting points. I do not see why we should have the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad. There are times when this may be so but not now... (source: Prime Minister's Personal Minute, D.217/4, 6 July, 1944)
The study concluded and advised Churchill that the use of such weapons would not benefit the war effort.

Churchill's war cabinet, May 1940 - May 1945


Winston Churchill's caretaker cabinet, May - July 1945

Winston Churchill's third cabinet, October 1951 - April 1955


  • March 1952: Lord Salisbury succeeds Lord Ismay as Commonwealth Relations Secretary. Salisbury remains also Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords. Lord Alexander of Tunis succeeds Churchill as Minister of Defence.
  • May 1952: Harry Crookshank succeeds Lord Salisbury as Lord Privy Seal, remaining Leader of the House of Commons. Salisbury remains Commonwealth Relations Secretary and Leader of the House of Lords. Crookshank's successor as Minister of Health is not in the Cabinet.
  • November 1952: Lord Woolton becomes Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Lord Salisbury succeeds Lord Woolton as Lord President. Lord Swinton succeeds Lord Salisbury as Commonwealth Relations Secretary.
  • September 1953: Florence Horsbrugh , the Minister of Education, Sir Thomas Dugdale, the Minister of Agriculture, and Gwilym Lloyd George, the Minister of Food, enter the cabinet. The Ministry for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel, and Power, is abolished, and Lord Leathers leaves the Cabinet.
  • October 1953: Lord Cherwell resigns as Paymaster General. His successor is not in the Cabinet.
  • July 1954: Alan Lennox-Boyd succeeds Oliver Lyttelton as Colonial Secretary. Derick Heathcoat Amory succeeds Sir Thomas Dugdale as Minister of Agriculture.
  • October 1954: Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, now Lord Kilmuir, succeeds Lord Simonds as Lord Chancellor. Gwilym Lloyd George succeeds him as Home Secretary. The Food Ministry is merged into the Ministry of Agriculture. Sir David Eccles succeeds Florence Horsbrugh as Minister of Education. Harold Macmillan succeeds Lord Alexander of Tunis as Minister of Defence. Duncan Sandys succeeds Macmillan as Minister of Housing and Local Government. Osbert Peake , the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, enters the Cabinet.


  • Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War by Robert Massie (ISBN 1844135284); deals with forty years of European politics by reference to the naval arms race between Britain and Germany. Contains chapters on Churchill's early life (chapter 40: "I Do Believe That I Am a Glowworm") and period as First Lord of the Admiralty (chapter 41: Churchill at the Admiralty).
  • Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert (ISBN 0-8050-2396-8)
  • Quotations database, World Beyond Borders.

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