Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill
, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can)
(30 November 1874 –24 January 1965) was a British politician known chiefly
for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. He served as
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951
to 1955. A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the
British Army, historian, writer, and artist. He is the only British Prime
Minister who has ever received the Nobel Prize for Literature and the first
foreigner to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.
army career, Churchill saw action in India, in the Sudan and the Second Boer
War. He gained fame and notoriety as a war correspondent and through
contemporary books he wrote describing the campaigns. He also served briefly
in the British Army on the Western Front in World War I, commanding the 6th
Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
Sir Winston Churchill
We shall fight them on the beaches
At the forefront of the political scene for almost fifty years, he held
many political and cabinet positions. Before the First World War, he served
as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary and First Lord of the
Admiralty as part of the Asquith Liberal government. During the war he
continued as First Lord of the Admiralty until the disastrous Battle of
Gallipoli caused his departure from government. He returned as Minister of
Munitions, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air. In the
interwar years, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative
After the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill was again appointed
First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville
Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
and led Britain to victory against the Axis powers.
Churchill was always noted for his speeches, which became a great
inspiration to the British people and embattled Allied forces.
After losing the 1945 election, he became Leader of the Opposition. In
1951, he again became Prime Minister before finally retiring in 1955. Upon
his death, the Queen granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw
one of the largest assemblies of statesmen in the world.
Family and early life
A descendant of the famous Spencer family,
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, like his father, used the surname
Churchill in public life.
His ancestor George Spencer had changed his surname to Spencer-Churchill in
1817 when he became Duke of Marlborough, to highlight his descent from John
Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Winston's father, Lord Randolph
Churchill, the third son of John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough,
was a politician, while his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill (née Jennie
Jerome) was the daughter of American millionaire Leonard Jerome. Born on 30
November 1874 in a bedroom in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire;
he arrived eight months after his parents' hasty marriage.
Churchill had one brother, John Strange Spencer-Churchill.
Independent and rebellious by nature, Churchill generally did poorly in
school, for which he was punished. He was educated at three independent
schools: St George's School in Ascot, Berkshire, followed by Brunswick
School in Hove, near Brighton (the school has since been renamed Stoke
Brunswick School and relocated to Ashurst Wood in West Sussex), and then at
Harrow School on 17 April 1888, where his military career began. Within
weeks of his arrival, he had joined the Harrow Rifle Corps.
He earned high marks in English and history and was also the school's
Churchill as a young boy age 7 in 1881
He was rarely visited by his mother (then known as Lady Randolph), and
wrote letters begging her to either come to the school or to allow him to
come home. His relationship with his father was a distant one, he once
remarked that they barely spoke to each other.
Due to this lack of parental contact he became very close to his nanny,
Elizabeth Anne Everest, who he used to call "Woomany".
His father died on 24 January 1895, aged just 45, leaving Churchill with the
conviction that he too would die young, so should be quick about making his
mark on the world.
Churchill described himself as having a "speech impediment" which he
consistently worked to overcome. After many years, he finally stated, "My
impediment is no hindrance." Trainee speech therapists are often shown
videotapes of Churchill's mannerisms while making speeches and the
Stuttering Foundation of America uses Churchill, pictured on its home page,
as one of its role models of successful stutterers. A large number of
1920s-1940s printed materials
by various authors mention the stutter in terms implying that it was a
well-known Churchill characteristic.
The Churchill Centre, however, flatly refutes the claim that Churchill
stuttered while confirming that he did have difficulty pronouncing the
letter S and spoke with a lisp.
His father also spoke with a lisp.
Certainly, the careful ear of diarist and fellow parliamentarian Harold
Nicolson led him to portray Churchill's speech with a lazy S rather
than any hint of a stutter: "It is cuthtomary to thand up when the Kingth
thpeech is read."
Marriage and children
Churchill met his future wife, Clementine Hozier, in 1904 at a ball in
Crewe House, home of the Earl of Crewe and his wife Margaret Primrose
(daughter of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery).
In 1908, they met again at a dinner party hosted by Lady St Helier.
Churchill found himself seated beside Clementine, and they soon began a
lifelong romance. He
proposed to Clementine during a house party at Blenheim Palace on 10 August
1908, in a small Temple of Diana.
On 12 September 1908, they were married in St. Margaret's, Westminster. The
church was packed; the Bishop of St Asaph conducted the service.
In March 1909, the couple moved to a house at 33 Eccleston Square.
Their first child, Diana, was born in London on 11 July 1909. After the
pregnancy, Clementine moved to Sussex to recover, while Diana stayed in
London with her nanny. On
28 May 1911, their second child, Randolph, was born at 33 Eccleston Square.
Their third child, Sarah, was born on 7 October 1914 at Admiralty House. The
birth was marked with anxiety for Clementine, as Winston had been sent to
Antwerp by the Cabinet to "stiffen the resistance of the beleaguered city"
after news that the Belgians intended to surrender the town.
Clementine gave birth to her fourth child, Marigold Frances Churchill, on
15 November 1918, four days after the official end of World War I.
In the early months of August, the Churchill's' children were entrusted to a
French nursery governess in Kent named Mlle Rose. Clementine, meanwhile,
travelled to Eaton Hall to play tennis with Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of
Westminster and his family. While still under the care of Mlle Rose,
Marigold had a cold, but was reported to have recovered from the illness. As
the illness progressed with hardly any notice, it turned into septicaemia.
Following advice from a landlady, Rose sent for Clementine. However the
illness turned fatal on 23 August 1921, and Marigold was buried in the
Kensal Green Cemetery three days later.
On 15 September 1922, the Churchills' last child was born, Mary. Later that
month, the Churchills bought Chartwell, which would be Winston's home until
his death in 1965.
Winston Churchill in Downing Street giving his famous 'V'
Service in the Army
After Churchill left Harrow in 1893, he applied to attend the Royal
Military Academy, Sandhurst. It took three attempts before he passed the
entrance exam; he applied for cavalry rather than infantry because the grade
requirement was lower and did not require him to learn mathematics, which he
disliked. He graduated eighth out of a class of 150 in December 1894,
and although he could now have transferred to an infantry regiment as his
father had wished, chose to remain with the cavalry and was commissioned as
a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars on 20 February 1895.
In 1941, he received the honour of Colonel of the Hussars.
Churchill's pay as a second lieutenant in the 4th Hussars was £300.
However, he believed that he needed at least a further £500 (equivalent to
£25,000 in 2001 terms) to support a style of life equal to other officers of
the regiment. His mother provided an allowance of £400 per year, but this
was repeatedly overspent. According to biographer Roy Jenkins, this is one
reason he took an interest in war correspondence.
He did not intend to follow a conventional career of promotion through army
ranks, but to seek out all possible chances of military action and used his
mother's and family influence in high society to arrange postings to active
campaigns. His writings both brought him to the attention of the public, and
earned him significant additional income. He acted as a war correspondent
for several London newspapers
and wrote his own books about the campaigns.
In 1895, Churchill travelled to Cuba to observe the Spanish fight the
Cuban guerrillas; he had obtained a commission to write about the conflict
from the Daily Graphic. To his delight, he came under fire for the
first time on his twenty-first birthday.
He had fond memories of Cuba as a "…large, rich, beautiful island…"
While there, he soon acquired a taste for Havana cigars, which he would
smoke for the rest of his life. While in New York, he stayed at the home of
Bourke Cockran, an admirer of his mother's. Bourke was an established
American politician, and a member of the House of Representatives. He
greatly influenced Churchill, both in his approach to oratory and politics,
and encouraging a love of America.
He soon received word that his nanny, Mrs Everest, was dying; he then
returned to England and stayed with her for a week until she died. He wrote
in his journal "She was my favourite friend." In My Early Life he
wrote: "She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of
the twenty years I had lived."
In early October 1896, he was transferred to Bombay, British India. He
was considered one of the best polo players in his regiment and led his team
to many prestigious tournament victories.
In 1897, Churchill attempted to travel to both report and, if necessary,
fight in the Greco-Turkish War, but this conflict effectively ended before
he could arrive. Later, while preparing for a leave in England, he heard
that three brigades of the British Army were going to fight against a
Pashtun tribe and he asked his superior officer if he could join the fight.
He fought under the command of General Jeffery, who was the commander of the
second brigade operating in Malakand, in what is now Pakistan. Jeffery sent
him with fifteen scouts to explore the Mamund Valley; while on
reconnaissance, they encountered an enemy tribe, dismounted from their
horses and opened fire. After an hour of shooting, their reinforcements, the
35th Sikhs arrived, and the fire gradually ceased and the brigade and the
Sikhs marched on. Hundreds of tribesmen then ambushed them and opened fire,
forcing them to retreat. As they were retreating four men were carrying an
injured officer but the fierceness of the fight forced them to leave him
behind. The man who was left behind was slashed to death before Churchill’s
eyes; afterwards he wrote of the killer, "I forgot everything else at this
moment except a desire to kill this man."
However the Sikhs' numbers were being depleted so the next commanding
officer told Churchill to get the rest of the men and boys to safety.
Before he left he asked for a note so he would not be charged with
desertion. He received the
note, quickly signed, and headed up the hill and alerted the other brigade,
whereupon they then engaged the army. The fighting in the region dragged on
for another two weeks before the dead could be recovered. He wrote in his
journal: "Whether it was worth it I cannot tell."
An account of the Siege of Malakand was published in December 1900 as The
Story of the Malakand Field Force. He received £600 for his account.
During the campaign, he also wrote articles for the newspapers The
Pioneer and The Daily Telegraph.
His account of the battle was one of his first published stories, for which
he received £5 per column from The Daily Telegraph.
Churchill at the Yalta summit in 1945
with Roosevelt and Stalin.
Sudan and Oldham
Churchill was transferred to Egypt in 1898 where he visited Luxor before
joining an attachment of the 21st Lancers serving in the Sudan under the
command of General Herbert Kitchener. During his time he encountered two
future military officers, with whom he would later work, during the First
World War: Douglas Haig, then a captain and John Jellicoe, then a gunboat
lieutenant. While in the
Sudan, he participated in what has been described as the last meaningful
British cavalry charge at the Battle of Omdurman in September 1898. He also
worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post. By October 1898,
he had returned to Britain and begun his two-volume work; The River War,
an account of the reconquest of the Sudan published the following year.
Churchill resigned from the British Army effective from 5 May 1899.
He soon had his first opportunity to begin a Parliamentary career, when
he was invited by Robert Ascroft to be the second Conservative Party
candidate in Ascroft's Oldham constituency. The event Ascroft's sudden death
caused a double by-election and Churchill was one of the candidates. In the
midst of a national trend against the Conservatives, both seats were lost;
however Churchill was impressed by his vigorous campaigning.
Having failed at Oldham, Churchill looked about for some other
opportunity to advance his career. On 12 October 1899, the Second Boer War
between Britain and the Boer Republics broke out and he obtained a
commission to act as war correspondent for the Morning Post with a salary of
£250 per month. He rushed to sail on the same ship as the newly appointed
British commander, Sir Redvers Buller. After some weeks in exposed areas he
accompanied a scouting expedition in an armoured train, leading to his
capture and imprisonment in a POW camp in Pretoria. His actions during the
ambush of the train led to speculation that he would be awarded the Victoria
Cross, Britain's highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, but
this did not occur.
Writing in London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, a collected version of his war
reports, he described the experience:
I have had, in the last four years, the advantage, if it be an
advantage, of many strange and varied experiences, from which the
student of realities might draw profit and instruction. But nothing
was so thrilling as this: to wait and struggle among these clanging,
rending iron boxes, with the repeated explosions of the shells and
the artillery, the noise of the projectiles striking the cars, the
hiss as they passed in the air, the grunting and puffing of the
engine--poor, tortured thing, hammered by at least a dozen shells,
any one of which, by penetrating the boiler, might have made an end
of all--the expectation of destruction as a matter of course, the
realization of powerlessness, and the alternations of hope and
despair--all this for seventy minutes by the clock with only four
inches of twisted iron work to make the difference between danger,
captivity, and shame on the one hand--safety, freedom, and triumph
on the other.
He escaped from the prison camp and travelled almost 300 mi (480 km) to
Portuguese Lourenço Marques in Delagoa Bay, with the assistance of an
English mine manager. His
escape made him a minor national hero for a time in Britain, though instead
of returning home, he rejoined General Buller's army on its march to relieve
the British at the Siege of Ladysmith and take Pretoria.
This time, although continuing as a war correspondent, he gained a
commission in the South African Light Horse. He was among the first British
troops into Ladysmith and Pretoria. He and his cousin, the Duke of
Marlborough, were able to get ahead of the rest of the troops in Pretoria,
where they demanded and received the surrender of 52 Boer prison camp
In 1900, Churchill returned to England on the RMS Dunottar Castle, the
same ship on which he set sail for South Africa eight months earlier.
He there published London to Ladysmith and a second volume of Boer
war experiences, Ian Hamilton's March. Churchill stood again for
parliament in Oldham in the general election of 1900 and won (his
Conservative colleague, Crisp, was defeated) in the contest for two seats.
After the 1900 general election he embarked on a speaking tour of Britain,
followed by tours of the United States and Canada, earning in excess of
Winston Churchill on a lecture tour of the United States in 1900
In 1900, he retired from regular army and in 1902 joined the Imperial
Yeomanry where he was commissioned as a Captain in the Queen's Own
Oxfordshire Hussars on 4 January 1902.
In April 1905, he was promoted to Major and appointed to command of the
Henley Squadron of the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars.
In September 1916, he transferred to the territorial reserves of officers
where he remained till retiring in 1924.
Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty at the start of World War I,
but was obliged to leave the war cabinet after the disastrous Battle of
Gallipoli. He attempted to obtain a commission as a brigade commander, but
settled for command of a battalion. After spending some time with the
Grenadier Guards he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding the 6th
Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, on 1 January 1916. Correspondence with his
wife shows that his intent in taking up active service was to rehabilitate
his reputation, but this was balanced by the serious risk of being killed.
As a commander he continued to exhibit the reckless daring which had been a
hallmark of all his military actions, although he disapproved strongly of
the mass slaughter involved in many western front actions.
Lord Deedes explained to a gathering of the Royal Historical Society in
2001 why Churchill went to the front line: "He was with Grenadier Guards,
who were dry [without alcohol] at battalion headquarters. They very much
liked tea and condensed milk, which had no great appeal to Winston, but
alcohol was permitted in the front line, in the trenches. So he suggested to
the colonel that he really ought to see more of the war and get into the
front line. This was highly commended by the colonel, who thought it was a
very good thing to do."
Political career to World War II
Early years in Parliament
Churchill stood again for the seat of Oldham at the 1900 general
election. After winning the seat, he went on a speaking tour throughout
Britain and the United States, raising £10,000 for himself. In Parliament,
he became associated with a faction of the Conservative Party led by Lord
Hugh Cecil; the Hughligans. During his first parliamentary session, he
opposed the government's military expenditure
and Joseph Chamberlain's proposal of extensive tariffs, which were intended
to protect Britain's economic dominance. His own constituency effectively
deselected him, although he continued to sit for Oldham until the next
general election. After the Whitsun recess in 1904 he crossed the floor to
sit as a member of the Liberal Party. As a Liberal, he continued to campaign
for free trade. When the Liberals took office with Henry Campbell-Bannerman
as Prime Minister, in December 1905, Churchill became Under-Secretary of
State for the Colonies dealing mainly with South Africa after the Boer War.
From 1903 until 1905, Churchill was also engaged in writing Lord Randolph
Churchill, a two-volume biography of his father which was published in
1906 and received much critical acclaim.
Following his deselection in the seat of Oldham, Churchill was invited to
stand for Manchester North West. He won the seat at the 1906 general
election with a majority of 1,214 and represented the seat for two years,
When Campbell-Bannerman was succeeded by Herbert Henry Asquith in 1908,
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 seat but was soon back
as a member for Dundee constituency. As President of the Board of Trade he
joined newly appointed Chancellor Lloyd George in opposing First Lord of the
Admiralty, Reginald McKenna's proposed huge expenditure for the construction
of Navy dreadnought warships, and in supporting the Liberal reforms.
In 1908, he introduced the Trade Boards Bill setting up the first minimum
wages in Britain, In 1909,
he set up Labour Exchanges to help unemployed people find work.
He helped draft the first unemployment pension legislation, the National
Insurance Act of 1911.
Churchill also assisted in passing the People's Budget
becoming President of the Budget League, an organisation set up in response
to the opposition's "Budget Protest League".
The budget included the introduction of new taxes on the wealthy to allow
for the creation of new social welfare programmes. After the budget bill was
sent to the Commons in 1909 and passed, it went to the House of Lords, where
it was vetoed. The Liberals then fought and won two general elections in
January and December 1910 to gain a mandate for their reforms. The budget
was then passed following the Parliament Act 1911 for which he also
campaigned. In 1910, he was promoted to Home Secretary. His term was
controversial, after his responses to the Siege of Sidney Street and the
dispute at the Cambrian Colliery and the suffragettes.
In 1910, a number of coal miners in the Rhondda Valley began what has
come to be known as the Tonypandy Riot.
The Chief Constable of Glamorgan requested troops be sent in to help police
quell the rioting. Churchill, learning that the troops were already
travelling, allowed them to go as far as Swindon and Cardiff but blocked
their deployment. On 9 November, the Times criticised this decision.
In spite of this, the rumour persists that Churchill had ordered troops to
attack, and his reputation in Wales and in Labour circles never recovered.
In early January 1911, Churchill made a controversial visit to the Siege
of Sidney Street in London. There is some uncertainty as to whether he
attempted to give operational commands, and his presence attracted much
criticism. After an inquest, Arthur Balfour remarked, "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?"
A biographer, Roy Jenkins, suggests that he went simply because "he could
not resist going to see the fun himself" and that he did not issue commands.
Churchill's proposed solution to the suffragette issue was a referendum
on the issue, but this found no favour with Herbert Henry Asquith and
women's suffrage remained unresolved until after the First World War.
In 1911, Churchill was transferred to the office of the First Lord of the
Admiralty, a post he held into World War I. He gave impetus to several
reform efforts, including development of naval aviation (he undertook flying
lessons himself), the
construction of new and larger warships, the development of tanks, and the
switch from coal to oil in the Royal Navy.
World War I and the Post War Coalition
On 5 October 1914, Churchill went to Antwerp which the Belgian government
proposed to evacuate. The Royal Marine Brigade was there and at Churchill’s
urgings the 1st and 2nd Naval Brigades were also committed. Antwerp fell on
10 October with the loss of 2500 men. At the time he was attacked for
squandering resources. It
is more likely that his actions prolonged the resistance by a week (Belgium
had proposed surrendering Antwerp on 3 October) and that this time saved
Calais and Dunkirk.
Churchill was involved with the development of the tank, which was
financed from naval research funds.
He then headed the Landships Committee which was responsible for creating
the first tank corps and, although a decade later development of the battle
tank would be seen as a tactical victory, at the time it was seen as
misappropriation of funds.
In 1915, he was one of the political and military engineers of the
disastrous Gallipoli landings on the Dardanelles during World War I.
He took much of the blame for the fiasco, and when Prime Minister Asquith
formed an all-party coalition government, the Conservatives demanded his
demotion as the price for entry.
For several months Churchill served in the sinecure of Chancellor of the
Duchy of Lancaster. However on 15 November 1915 he resigned from the
government, feeling his energies were not being used.
and, though remaining an MP, served for several months on the Western Front
commanding the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, under the rank of
Colonel. In March 1916,
Churchill returned to England after he had become restless in France and
wished to speak again in the House of Commons.
In July 1917, Churchill was appointed Minister of Munitions, and in January
1919, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air. He was the
main architect of the Ten Year Rule, a principle that allows the Treasury to
dominate and control strategic, foreign and financial policies under the
assumption that "there would be no great European war for the next five or
A 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
secured, from a divided and loosely organised Cabinet, 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.
Churchill was involved in the lengthy negotiations of the treaty and to
protect British maritime interests, he engineered part of the Irish Free
State agreement to include three Treaty Ports—Queenstown (Cobh), Berehaven
and Lough Swilly—which could be used as Atlantic bases by the Royal Navy.
Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement the bases were returned
to the newly renamed "Ireland" in 1938.
Churchill advocated the use of tear gas on Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq,
based on a War Office minute of 12 May 1919:
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 gasses: gasses 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.
If British forces did consider the use of poison gas in putting down
Kurdish rebellions, there is no evidence that it was ever used.
Rejoining the Conservative Party – Chancellor
of the Exchequer
In September, the Conservative Party withdrew from the Coalition
government following a meeting of backbenchers dissatisfied with the
handling of the Chanak Crisis, a move that precipitated the looming October
1922 General Election. Churchill fell ill during the campaign, and had to
have an appendicectomy. This made it difficult for him to campaign, and a
further setback was the internal division that continued to beset the
Liberal Party. He came only fourth in the poll for Dundee, losing to the
prohibitionist Edwin Scrymgeour. Churchill later quipped that he left Dundee
"without an office, without a seat, without a party and without an
He stood for the Liberals again in the 1923 general election, losing in
Leicester, and then as an independent, first without success in a
by-election in the Westminster Abbey constituency, and then successfully in
the general election of 1924 for Epping. The following year, he formally
rejoined the Conservative Party, commenting wryly that "anyone can rat, but
it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat."
Churchill was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924 under Stanley
Baldwin and oversaw Britain's disastrous return to the Gold Standard, which
resulted in deflation, unemployment, and the miners' strike that led to the
General Strike of 1926.
His decision, announced in the 1924 Budget, came after long consultation
with various economists including John Maynard Keynes, the Permanent
Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Otto Niemeyer and the board of the Bank of
England. This decision prompted Keynes to write The Economic Consequences
of Mr. Churchill, arguing that the return to the gold standard at the
pre-war parity in 1925 (£1=$4.86) would lead to a world depression. However,
the decision was generally popular and seen as 'sound economics' although it
was opposed by Lord Beaverbrook and the Federation of British Industries.
Churchill later regarded this as the greatest mistake of his life.
However in discussions at the time with former Chancellor McKenna, Churchill
acknowledged that the return to the gold standard and the resulting 'dear
money' policy was economically bad. In those discussions he maintained the
policy as fundamentally political - a return to the pre-war conditions in
which he believed. In his
speech on the Bill he said "I will tell you what it [the return to the Gold
Standard] will shackle us to. It will shackle us to reality."
The return to the pre-war exchange rate and to the Gold Standard
depressed industries. The most affected was the coal industry. Already
suffering from declining output as shipping switched to oil, as basic
British industries like cotton came under more competition in export
markets, the return to the pre-war exchange was estimated to add up to 10%
in costs to the industry. In July 1925, a Commission of Inquiry reported
generally favouring the miners, rather than the mine owners' position.
Baldwin, with Churchill's support proposed a subsidy to the industry while a
Royal Commission prepared a further report.
That Commission solved nothing and the miners dispute led to 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" and claimed 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. At one point, Churchill went
as far as to call Mussolini the "Roman genius… the greatest lawgiver among
Later economists, as well as people at the time, also criticised
Churchill's budget measures. These were seen as assisting the generally
prosperous rentier banking and salaried classes (to which Churchill and his
associates generally belonged) at the expense of manufacturers and exporters
which were known then to be suffering from imports and from competition in
traditional export markets,
and as paring the Armed Forces too heavily.
The Conservative government was defeated in the 1929 General Election.
Churchill did not seek election to the Conservative Business Committee, the
official leadership of the Conservative MPs. Over the next two years,
Churchill became estranged from the Conservative leadership over the issues
of protective tariffs and Indian Home Rule and by his political views and by
his friendships with press barons, financiers and people whose characters
were seen as dubious. When Ramsay MacDonald formed the National Government
in 1931, Churchill was not invited to join the Cabinet. He was at the low
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 (though the latter was not published until well after
World War II),
Great Contemporaries and many newspaper articles and collections of
speeches. He was one of the best paid writers of his time.
His political views, set forth in his 1930 Romanes Election and published as
Parliamentary Government and the Economic Problem (republished in
1932 in his collection of essays "Thoughts and Adventures") involved
abandoning universal suffrage, a return to a property franchise,
proportional representation for the major cities and an economic 'sub
During the first half of the 1930s, Churchill was outspoken in his
opposition to granting Dominion status to India. He was one of the founders
of the India Defence League, a group dedicated to the preservation of
British power in India. In speeches and press articles in this period he
forecast widespread British unemployment and civil strife in India should
independence be granted.
The Viceroy Lord Irwin who had been appointed by the prior Conservative
Government engaged in the Round Table Conference in early 1931 and then
announced the Government's policy that India should be granted Dominion
Status. In this the Government was supported by the Liberal Party and,
officially at least, by the Conservative Party. Churchill denounced the
Round Table Conference.
At a meeting of the West Essex Conservative Association specially
convened so Churchill could explain his position he said, "It is alarming
and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle-Temple lawyer, now
posing as a fakir of a type well-known in the East, striding half-naked up
the steps of the Vice-regal palace…to parley on equal terms with the
representative of the King-Emperor."
He called the Indian Congress leaders "Brahmins who mouth and patter
principles of Western Liberalism."
There were two incidents which damaged Churchill's reputation greatly
within the Conservative Party in the period. Both were taken as attacks on
the Conservative front bench. The first was his speech on the eve of the St
George by-election in April 1931. In a secure Conservative seat, the
official Conservative candidate Duff Cooper was opposed by an independent
Conservative. The independent was supported by Lord Rothermere, Lord
Beaverbrook and their respective newspapers. Although arranged before the by
election was set,
Churchill's speech was seen as supporting the independent candidate and as a
part of the Press Baron's campaign against Baldwin. Baldwin's position was
strengthened when Duff Cooper won and when the civil disobedience campaign
in India ceased with the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. The second issue was a claim
that Sir Samuel Hoare and Lord Derby had pressured the Manchester Chamber of
Commerce to change evidence it had given to the Joint Select Committee
considering the Government of India Bill and in doing so had breached
Parliamentary privilege. He had the matter referred to the House of Commons
Privilege Committee which after investigations, in which Churchill gave
evidence reported to the House that there had been no breach.
The report was debated on 13 June. Churchill was unable to find a single
supporter in the House and the debate ended without a division.
Churchill permanently broke with Stanley Baldwin over Indian independence
and never held any office while Baldwin was Prime Minister. Some historians
see his basic attitude to India as being set out in his book My Early
Historians also dispute his motives in maintaining his opposition. Some see
him as trying to destabilise the National Government. Some also draw a
parallel between Churchill's attitudes to India and those towards the Nazis.
Another source of controversy about Churchill's attitude towards Indian
affairs arises over what some historians term the Indian 'nationalist
approach' to the Bengal famine of 1943, which has sought to place
significant blame on Churchill's wartime government for the excess mortality
of up to 3 million people.
While some commentators point to the disruption of the traditional marketing
system and maladministration at the provincial level,
Arthur Herman, author of Churchill and Gandhi, contends, 'The real
cause was the fall of Burma to the Japanese, which cut off India’s main
supply of rice imports when domestic sources fell short…it is true that
Churchill opposed diverting food supplies and transports from other theatres
to India to cover the shortfall: this was wartime.'
Beginning in 1932, when he opposed those who advocated giving Germany the
right to military parity with France, Churchill spoke often of the dangers
of Germany's rearmament.
He later, particularly in The Gathering Storm, portrayed himself as
being for a time, a lone voice calling on Britain to strengthen itself to
counter the belligerence of Germany.
However Lord Lloyd was the first to so agitate.
Churchill's attitude toward the fascist dictators was ambiguous. In 1931, he
warned against the League of Nations opposing the Japanese in Manchuria "I
hope we shall try in England to understand the position of Japan, an ancient
state…. On the one side they have the dark menace of Soviet Russia. On the
other the chaos of China, four or five provinces of which are being tortured
under Communist rule".
In contemporary newspaper articles he referred to the Spanish Republican
government as a Communist front, and Franco's army as the "Anti-red
movement". He supported
the Hoare-Laval Pact and continued up until 1937 to praise Benito Mussolini.
Speaking in the House of Commons in 1937, Churchill said "I will not
pretend that, if I had to choose between communism and Nazism, I would
choose communism".Great Contemporaries, Churchill expressed a
hope that Hitler, if he so chose, and despite his rise to power through
dictatorial action, hatred, and cruelty, he might yet "go down in history as
the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the great Germanic nation
and brought it back serene, helpful and strong, to the forefront of the
European family circle."
Churchill's first major speech on defence on 7 February 1934 stressed the
need to rebuild the Royal Air Force and to create a Ministry of Defence; his
second, on 13 July urged a renewed role for the League of Nations. These
three topics remained his themes until early 1936. In 1935, he was one of
the founding members of Focus which brought together people of
differing political backgrounds and occupations who were united in seeking
'the defence of freedom and peace'.
Focus led to the formation of the much wider Arms and the Covenant
Movement in 1936.
In a 1935 essay, entitled "Hitler and his Choice" as republished
in Churchill's 1937 book
Churchill was holidaying in Spain when the Germans reoccupied the
Rhineland in February 1936, and returned to a divided Britain—Labour
opposition was adamant in opposing sanctions and the National Government was
divided between advocates of economic sanctions and those who said that even
these would lead to a humiliating backdown by Britain as France would not
support any intervention.
Churchill's speech on 9 March was measured and praised by Neville
Chamberlain as constructive. But within weeks Churchill was passed over for
the post of Minister for Co-ordination of Defence in favour of the Attorney
General Sir Thomas Inskip.
Alan Taylor called this; 'An appointment rightly described as the most
extraordinary since Caligula made his horse a consul.'
In June 1936, Churchill organised a deputation of senior Conservatives who
shared his concern to see Baldwin, Chamberlain and Halifax. He had tried to
have delegates from the other two parties and later wrote "If the leaders of
the Labour and Liberal oppositions had come with us there might have been a
political situation so intense as to enforce remedial action".
As it was the meeting achieved little, Baldwin arguing that the Government
was doing all it could given the anti-war feeling of the electorate.
On 12 November Churchill returned to the topic. Speaking in the Address
in Reply debate after giving some specific instances of Germany’s war
preparedness he said ‘’'The Government simply cannot make up their mind or
they cannot get the Prime Minister to make up his mind. So they go on in
strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute,
adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful for impotency. And so we
go on preparing more months more years precious perhaps vital for the
greatness of Britain for the locusts to eat.'’’
R.R. James called this one of Churchill’s most brilliant speeches in this
period, Baldwin's reply sounding weak and disturbing the House. The exchange
gave new encouragement to the Arms and the Covenant Movement.
In June 1936, Walter Monckton told Churchill that the rumours that King
Edward VIII intended to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson were true. Churchill then
advised against the marriage and said he regarded Mrs Simpson's existing
marriage as a 'safeguard'.
In November, he declined Lord Salisbury's invitation to be part of a
delegation of senior Conservative backbenchers who met with Baldwin to
discuss the matter. On 25 November he, Attlee and Liberal leader Archibald
Sinclair met with Baldwin, were told officially of the King's intention, and
asked whether they would form an administration if Baldwin and the National
Government resigned should the King not take the Ministry's advice. Both
Attlee and Sinclair said they would not take office if invited to do so.
Churchill's reply was that his attitude was a little different but he would
support the government.
The Abdication crisis became public, coming to head in the first
fortnight of December 1936. At this time Churchill publicly gave his support
to the King. The first public meeting of the Arms and the Covenant Movement
was on 3 December. Churchill was a major speaker and later wrote that in
replying to the Vote of Thanks he made a declaration 'on the spur of the
moment' asking for delay before any decision was made by either the King or
his Cabinet. Later that
night Churchill saw the draft of the King's proposed wireless broadcast and
spoke with Beaverbrook and the King's solicitor about it. On 4 December, he
met with the King and again urged delay in any decision about abdication. On
5 December, he issued a lengthy statement implying that the Ministry was
applying unconstitutional pressure on the King to force him to make a hasty
decision. On 7 December
he tried to address the Commons to plead for delay. He was shouted down.
Seemingly staggered by the unanimous hostility of all Members he left.
Churchill's reputation in Parliament and England as a whole was badly
damaged. Some such as Alistair Cooke saw him as trying to build a King's
Party. Others like
Harold Macmillan were dismayed by the damage Churchill's support for the
King had done to the Arms and the Covenant Movement.
Churchill himself later wrote "I was myself smitten in public opinion that
it was the almost universal view that my political life was ended."
Historians are divided about Churchill's motives in his support for Edward
VIII. Some such as A J P Taylor see it as being an attempt to 'overthrow the
government of feeble men'.
Others such as Rhode James see Churchill's motives as entirely honourable
and disinterested, that he felt deeply for the King.
Return from exile
Churchill later sought to portray himself as an isolated voice warning of
the need to rearm against Germany. While it is true that he had little
following in the House of Commons during much of the 1930s he was given
considerable privileges by the Government. The “Churchill group” in the
later half of the decade consisted only of himself, Duncan Sandys and
Brendan Bracken. It was isolated from the other main factions within the
Conservative Party pressing for faster rearmament and a stronger foreign
policy. In some senses
the ‘exile’ was more apparent than real. Churchill continued to be consulted
on many matters by the Government or seen as an alternative leader.
Even during the time Churchill was campaigning against Indian
independence, he received official and otherwise secret information. From
1932, Churchill’s neighbour, Major Desmond Morton with Ramsay MacDonald's
approval, gave Churchill information on German air power.
From 1930 onwards Morton headed a department of the Committee of Imperial
Defence charged with researching the defence preparedness of other nations.
Lord Swinton as Secretary of State for Air, and with Baldwin’s approval, in
1934 gave Churchill access to official and otherwise secret information.
Swinton did so, knowing Churchill would remain a critic of the government
but believing that an informed critic was better than one relying on rumour
and hearsay. Churchill
was a fierce critic of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler
and in a speech to the House of Commons, he bluntly and prophetically
stated, "You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose
dishonour, and you will have war."
Role as wartime Prime Minister
"Winston is back"
After the outbreak of World War II, on 3 September 1939 the day Britain
declared war on Germany, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty
and a member of the War Cabinet, just as he had been during the first part
of World War I. When they were informed, the Board of the Admiralty sent a
signal to the Fleet: "Winston is back".
In this job, he proved to be one of the highest-profile ministers during the
so-called "Phony War", when the only noticeable action was at sea. Churchill
advocated the pre-emptive occupation of the neutral Norwegian iron-ore port
of Narvik and the iron mines in Kiruna, Sweden, early in the war. However,
Chamberlain and the rest of the War Cabinet disagreed, and the operation was
delayed until the successful German invasion of Norway.
Bitter beginnings of the war
On 10 May 1940, hours before the German invasion of France by a lightning
advance through the Low Countries, it became clear that, following failure
in Norway, the country had no confidence in Chamberlain's prosecution of the
war and so Chamberlain resigned. The commonly accepted version of events
states that Lord Halifax turned down the post of Prime Minister because he
believed he could not govern effectively as a member of the House of Lords
instead of the House of Commons. Although the Prime Minister does not
traditionally advise the King on the former's successor, Chamberlain wanted
someone who would command the support of all three major parties in the
House of Commons. A meeting between Chamberlain, Halifax, Churchill and
David Margesson, the government Chief Whip, led to the recommendation of
Churchill, and, as a constitutional monarch, George VI asked Churchill to be
Prime Minister and to form an all-party government. Churchill's first act
was to write to Chamberlain to thank him for his support.
Churchill had been among the first to recognise the growing threat of
Hitler long before the outset of the Second World War, and his warnings had
gone largely unheeded. Although there was an element of British public and
political sentiment favouring negotiated peace with a clearly ascendant
Germany, among them the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, Churchill
nonetheless refused to consider an armistice with Hitler's Germany.
His use of rhetoric hardened public opinion against a peaceful resolution
and prepared the British for a long war.
Coining the general term for the upcoming battle, Churchill stated in his
"finest hour" speech to the House of Commons on 18 June 1940, "I expect that
the Battle of Britain is about to begin."
By refusing an armistice with Germany, Churchill kept resistance alive in
the British Empire and created the basis for the later Allied
counter-attacks of 1942-45, with Britain serving as a platform for the
supply of Soviet Union and the liberation of Western Europe.
In response to previous criticisms that there had been no clear single
minister in charge of the prosecution of the war, Churchill 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 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 British.
His first speech as Prime Minister was the famous "I have nothing to
offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat". He followed that closely with
two other equally famous ones, given just before the Battle of Britain. One
included the words:
… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the
air, 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.
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.
One of his most memorable war speeches came on 10 November 1942 at the Lord
Mayor's Luncheon at Mansion House in London, in response to the Allied
victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein. Churchill stated:
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it
is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Without having much in the way of sustenance or good news to offer the
British people, he took a political risk in deliberately choosing to
emphasise the dangers instead.
"Rhetorical power", wrote Churchill, "is neither wholly
bestowed, nor wholly acquired, but cultivated." Not all were impressed
by his oratory. Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia and himself a
gifted phrase-maker, said of Churchill during World War II: "His real tyrant
is the glittering phrase so attractive to his mind that awkward facts have
to give way." Another
associate wrote: "He is … the slave of the words which his mind forms about
ideas. … And he can convince himself of almost every truth if it is once
allowed thus to start on its wild career through his rhetorical machinery."
Relations with the United States
Churchill's good relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt secured vital
food, oil and munitions via the North Atlantic shipping routes. It was for
this reason that Churchill was relieved when Roosevelt was re-elected in
1940. Upon re-election, Roosevelt immediately set about implementing a new
method of providing military hardware and shipping to Britain without the
need for monetary payment. Put simply, Roosevelt persuaded Congress that
repayment for this immensely costly service would take the form of defending
the US; and so Lend-lease was born. Churchill had 12 strategic conferences
with Roosevelt which covered the Atlantic Charter, Europe first strategy,
the Declaration by the United Nations and other war policies. After Pearl
Harbour was attacked, Churchill's first thought in anticipation of US help
was, "We have won the war!"
On 26 December 1941, Churchill addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress,
asking of Germany and Japan, "What kind of people do they think we are?"
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".
Churchill's health was fragile, as shown by a mild heart attack he
suffered in December 1941 at the White House and also in December 1943 when
he contracted pneumonia. Despite this, he travelled over 100,000 miles
(160,000 km) throughout the war to meet other national leaders. For
security, he usually travelled using the alias Colonel Warden.
Churchill was party to treaties that would redraw post-World War II European
and Asian boundaries. These were discussed as early as 1943. Proposals for
European boundaries and settlements were officially agreed to by Harry S
Truman, Churchill, and Stalin at Potsdam. At the Second Quebec Conference in
1944 he drafted and, together with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
signed a toned-down version of the original Morgenthau Plan, in which they
pledged to convert Germany after its unconditional surrender "into a
country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character."
Churchill's strong relationship with Harry Truman was also of great
significance to both countries. While he clearly regretted the loss of his
close friend and counterpart Roosevelt, Churchill was enormously supportive
of Truman in his first days in office, calling him, "the type of leader the
world needs when it needs him most."
Relations with the Soviet Union
When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, Winston Churchill, a vehement
anti-Communist, famously stated "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least
make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons," regarding
his policy toward Stalin.
Soon, British supplies and tanks were flowing to help the Soviet Union.
The settlement concerning the borders of Poland, that is, the boundary
between Poland and the Soviet Union and between Germany and Poland, was
viewed as a betrayal in Poland during the post-war years, as it was
established against the views of the Polish government in exile. It was
Winston Churchill, who tried to motivate Mikołajczyk, who was Prime Minister
of the Polish government in exile, to accept Stalin's wishes, but
Mikołajczyk refused. 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 he expounded in the House of Commons on 15 December 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."
However the resulting expulsions of Germans were carried out in a way which
resulted in much hardship and, according to a 1966 report by the West German
Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons, the death of over 2.1 million.
Churchill 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
During October 1944, he and Eden were in Moscow to meet with the Russian
leadership. At this point, Russian forces were beginning to advance into
various eastern European countries. Churchill held the view that until
everything was formally and properly worked out at the Yalta conference,
there had to be a temporary, war-time, working agreement with regard to who
would run what.
The most significant of these meetings were held on 9 October 1944 in the
Kremlin between Churchill and Stalin. During the meeting, Poland and the
Balkan problems were discussed.
Churchill recounted his speech to Stalin on the day:
Let us settle about our affairs in the Balkans. Your armies are in
Rumania and Bulgaria. We have interests, missions, and agents there.
Don't let us get at cross-purposes in small ways. So far as Britain and
Russia are concerned, how would it do for you to have ninety per cent
predominance in Rumania, for us to have ninety per cent of the say in
Greece, and go fifty-fifty about Yugoslavia?
Stalin agreed to this Percentages Agreement, ticking a piece of paper as
he heard the translation. In 1958, five years after the recount of this
meeting was published (in The Second World War), authorities of the
Soviet denied that Stalin accepted the "imperialist proposal".
One of the conclusions of the Yalta Conference was that the Allies would
return all Soviet citizens that found themselves in the Allied zone to the
Soviet Union. This immediately affected the Soviet prisoners of war
liberated by the Allies, but was also extended to all Eastern European
called the Operation Keelhaul "the last secret of World War II."
Dresden bombings controversy
Between 13 February and 15 February 1945, British and the US bombers
attacked the German city of Dresden, which was crowded with German wounded
and refugees. Because of
the cultural importance of the city, and of the number of civilian
casualties close to the end of the war, this remains one of the most
controversial Western Allied actions of the war. Following the bombing
Churchill stated in a top secret telegram:
It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing
of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though
under other pretexts, should be reviewed … I feel the need for more
precise concentration upon military objectives such as oil and
communications behind the immediate battle-zone, rather than on mere
acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive.
On reflection, under pressure from the Chiefs of Staff and in response to
the views expressed by Sir Charles Portal (Chief of the Air Staff,) and
Arthur Harris (AOC-in-C of Bomber Command,) among others, Churchill withdrew
his memo and issued a new one.
This final version of the memo completed on 1 April 1945, stated:
It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so
called 'area-bombing' of German cities should be reviewed from the point
of view of our own interests. If we come into control of an entirely
ruined land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for
ourselves and our allies … We must see to it that our attacks do no more
harm to ourselves in the long run than they do to the enemy's war
Ultimately, responsibility for the British part of the attack lay with
Churchill, which is why he has been criticised for allowing the bombings to
happen. The German historian Jörg Friedrich, claims that "Winston
Churchill's decision to [area] bomb a shattered Germany between January and
May 1945 was a war crime"
and writing in 2006 the philosopher A. C. Grayling questioned the whole
strategic bombing campaign by the RAF presenting the argument that although
it was not a war crime it was a moral crime and undermines the Allies
contention that they fought a just war.
On the other hand, it has also been asserted that Churchill's involvement in
the bombing of Dresden was based on the strategic and tactical aspects of
winning the war. The destruction of Dresden, while immense, was designed to
expedite the defeat of Germany. As the historian Max Hastings said in an
article subtitled, "the Allied Bombing of Dresden": "I believe it is wrong
to describe strategic bombing as a war crime, for this might be held to
suggest some moral equivalence with the deeds of the Nazis. Bombing
represented a sincere, albeit mistaken, attempt to bring about Germany's
military defeat." Furthermore British historian, Frederick Taylor asserts
that "All sides bombed each other's cities during the war. Half a million
Soviet citizens, for example, died from German bombing during the invasion
and occupation of Russia. That's roughly equivalent to the number of German
citizens who died from Allied raids. But the Allied bombing campaign was
attached to military operations and ceased as soon as military operations
The Second World War ends
In June 1944, the Allied Forces invaded Normandy and pushed the Nazi
forces back into Germany on a broad front over the coming year. After being
attacked on three fronts by the Allies, and in spite of Allied failures,
such as Operation Market Garden, and German counter-attacks, including the
Battle of the Bulge, Germany was eventually defeated. On 7 May 1945 at the
SHAEF headquarters in Rheims the Allies accepted Germany's surrender. On the
same day in a BBC news flash John Snagge announced that 8 May would be
Victory in Europe Day.
On Victory in Europe Day, Churchill broadcast to the nation that Germany had
surrendered and that a final cease fire on all fronts in Europe would come
into effect at one minute past midnight that night.
Afterwards Churchill told a huge crowd in Whitehall: "This is your victory."
The people shouted: "No, it is yours", and Churchill then conducted them in
the singing of Land of Hope and Glory. In the evening he made another
broadcast to the nation asserting the defeat of Japan in the coming months.
The Japanese later surrendered on 15 August 1945.
As Europe celebrated peace at the end of six years of war, Churchill was
concerning on the possibility that the celebrations would soon be brutally
concluded that the UK and the US must prepare for the Red Army ignoring
previously-agreed frontiers and agreements in Europe "to impose upon
Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire."
According to the Operation Unthinkable plan ordered by Churchill and
developed by the British Armed Forces, the Third World War could have
started on 1 July 1945 with a sudden attack against the allied Soviet
troops. The plan was rejected by the British Chiefs of Staff Committee as
militarily unfeasible. However this decision didn't stop the further
development of the war plans: with the beginning Arms race the militarily
unfeasible Third World War was developed into the Cold War doctrine.
Leader of the opposition
Although Churchill's role in World War II had generated him much support
from the British population, he was defeated in the 1945 election.
Many reasons for this have been given, key among them being that a desire
for post-war reform was widespread amongst the population and that the man
who had led Britain in war was not seen as the man to lead the nation in
For six years he was to serve as the Leader of the Opposition. During
these years Churchill continued to have an impact on world affairs. During
his March 1946 trip to the United States, Churchill, famously lost a lot of
money in a poker game with Harry Truman and his advisors.
 (He also liked to play
Bezique, which he learned while serving in the Boer War.)
During this trip he gave his Iron Curtain speech about the USSR and the
creation of the Eastern Bloc. Speaking on March 5, 1946 at Westminster
College in Fulton, Missouri, he declared:
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in 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.
Churchill also argued strongly for British independence from the European
Coal and Steel Community, which he saw as a Franco-German project. He saw
Britain's place as separate from the continent, much more in-line with the
countries of the Commonwealth and the Empire and with the United States, the
Second term as Prime Minister
Return to Government and the Decline of the
After the General Election of 1951, Churchill again became Prime
Minister. His third government—after the wartime national government and the
brief caretaker government of 1945—lasted until his resignation in 1955. His
domestic priorities in his last government were 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. One example was his dispatch of British
troops to Kenya to deal with the Mau Mau rebellion.
Trying to retain what he could of the Empire, he once stated that, "I will
not preside over a dismemberment."
War in Malaya
This was followed by events which became known as the Malayan Emergency.
In Malaya, a rebellion against British rule had been in progress since 1948.
Once again, Churchill's government inherited a crisis, and Churchill chose
to use direct military action against those in rebellion while attempting to
build an alliance with those who were not.
While the rebellion was slowly being defeated, it was equally clear that
colonial rule from Britain was no longer sustainable.
Relations with the United States
Churchill also devoted much of his time in office to Anglo-American
relations and although Churchill did not get on well with President Dwight
D. Eisenhowerspecial relationship with
the United States. He made four official transatlantic visits to America
during his second term as Prime Minister.
, Churchill attempted to maintain the
The series of strokes
In June 1953, when he was 78, Churchill suffered a stroke at 10 Downing
Street. News of this was kept from the public and from Parliament, who were
told that Churchill was suffering from exhaustion. He went to his country
home, Chartwell, to recuperate from the effects of the stroke which had
affected his speech and ability to walk.
He returned to public life in October to make a speech at a Conservative
Party conference at Margate.
However, aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally,
Churchill retired as Prime Minister in 1955 and was succeeded by Anthony
Retirement and Death
Elizabeth II offered to create Churchill Duke of London, but this was
declined due to the objections of his son Randolph, who would have inherited
the title on his father's death.
After leaving the premiership, Churchill spent less time in parliament until
he stood down at the 1964 General Election. As a mere "back-bencher,"
Churchill spent most of his retirement at Chartwell and at his home in Hyde
Park Gate, in London.
As his mental and physical faculties decayed, he began to lose the battle he
had fought for so long against the "black dog" of depression.
In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy, acting under authorisation granted by
an Act of Congress, proclaimed him an Honorary Citizen of the United States,
but he was unable to attend the White House ceremony. On 15 January 1965,
Churchill suffered a severe stroke that left him gravely ill. He died at his
home nine days later, at age 90, on the morning of Sunday 24 January 1965,
coincidentally 70 years to the day after his father's death.
By decree of the Queen, his body lay in state for three days and a state
funeral service was held at St Paul's Cathedral.
As his coffin passed down the Thames from Tower Pier to Festival Pier on the
Havengore, dockers lowered their crane jibs in a salute.
The Royal Artillery fired a 19-gun salute (as head of government), and the
RAF staged a fly-by of sixteen English Electric Lightning fighters. The
coffin was then taken the short distance to Waterloo Station where it was
loaded onto a specially prepared and painted carriage - Southern Railway Van
S2464S - as part of the funeral train for its rail journey to Bladon.
The funeral also saw one of the largest assemblage of statesmen in the world
until the 2005 funeral of Pope John Paul II.
The funeral train of Pullman coaches carrying his family mourners was hauled
by Bulleid Pacific steam locomotive No. 34051 "Winston Churchill". In the
fields along the route, and at the stations through which the train passed,
thousands stood in silence to pay their last respects. At Churchill's
request, he was buried in the family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon,
near Woodstock, not far from his birthplace at Blenheim Palace. Churchill's
funeral van - Southern Railway Van S2464S - is now part of a preservation
project with the Swanage Railway having been repatriated to the UK in 2007
from the USA where it was exported in 1965.
Churchill as artist, historian, and writer
Winston Churchill was also an accomplished artist and took great pleasure
in painting, especially after his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty
in 1915. He found a
haven in art to overcome the spells of depression, or as he termed it, the
"Black Dog", which he suffered throughout his life. As William Rees-Mogg has
stated, "In his own life, he had to suffer the 'black dog' of depression. In
his landscapes and still lives there is no sign of depression".
He is best known for his impressionist scenes of landscape, many of which
were painted while on holiday in the South of France, Egypt or Morocco.
He continued his hobby throughout his life and painted hundreds of
paintings, many of which are on show in the studio at Chartwell as well as
Most of his paintings are oil-based and feature landscapes, but he also did
a number of interior scenes and portraits.
Despite his lifelong fame and upper-class origins Churchill always
struggled to keep his income at a level that would fund his extravagant
lifestyle. MPs before 1946 received only a nominal salary (and in fact did
not receive anything at all until the Parliament Act 1911) so many had
secondary professions from which to earn a living.
From his first book in 1898 until his second stint as Prime Minister,
Churchill's income was almost entirely made from writing books and opinion
pieces for newspapers and magazines. The most famous of his newspaper
articles are those that appeared in the Evening Standard from 1936 warning
of the rise of Hitler and the danger of the policy of appeasement.
Churchill was also a prolific writer of books, writing a novel, two
biographies, three volumes of memoirs, and several histories in addition to
his many newspaper articles. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
"for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for
brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values".
Two of his most famous works, published after his first premiership brought
his international fame to new heights, were his six-volume memoir The
Second World War and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples; a
four-volume history covering the period from Caesar's invasions of Britain
(55 BC) to the beginning of the First World War (1914).
Aside from receiving the great honour of a state funeral, Churchill also
received numerous awards and honours, including being made the first
Honorary Citizen of the United States.
Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his numerous
published works, especially his six-edition set The Second World War.
In a 2002 BBC poll of the "100 Greatest Britons", he was proclaimed "The
Greatest of Them All" based on approximately a million votes from BBC
viewers. Churchill was
also rated as one of the most influential leaders in history by Time
College, Cambridge was founded in 1958 on his behalf.
- University of Rochester (LL.D)
- Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts (LL.D) in 1943
- McGill University in Montreal, Quebec (LL.D) in 1944
- Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri
March 5, 1946
- University of Miami in Miami, Florida in 1947
- University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark (Ph.D) in 1950
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