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Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill -- Early Life

drop capitalhe Right Honorable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS (1874 - 1965) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. His career had been exciting and varied as a soldier, journalist, historian, painter, and politician. In 1953 he received the Nobel Prize in literature. Churchill is revered as one of the greatest leaders in British and world history.

Born the grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough his mother was the daughter of American millionaire and major shareholder in The New York Times, Leonard Jerome. Winston was educated at the English public school of Harrow, excelling in English and becoming fencing champion but otherwise failed to apply himself. He remembered the Harrow songs as being particularly good.

The young Churchill joined the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and passed out as a Subaltern of the IV (Queen's Own) Hussars Cavalry regiment. His first posting was to India where he read widely and started writing for newspapers. Using his family connections he was able to get involved in many of the small wars and skirmishes of the British Empire. He combined soldering with journalism and in 1897 his first book The Story of the Malakand Field Force, was published.

After wangling a posting to the 21st Lancers, combining it with War Correspondent for The Morning Post, Churchill joined Kitchener in the Sudan. Whilst there, he took part in the Battle of Omdurman -- the last British cavalry battle charge. In 1898 he returned to Britain and started work on his second volume of The River War, published in 1899. That year he had his first attempt at politics but failed to win a seat as the Conservative candidate.

Later that year the second Anglo-Boer war erupted in South Africa. As War Correspondent for The Morning Post, Churchill rushed to the scene. He caught a lift on a British Army Armored Train only to find himself ambushed and derailed by a Boer attack. Churchill took charge, had the track cleared, and managed to free the engine and half the train. The wounded escaped but Churchill and other officers and soldiers were captured and sent to a camp in Pretoria. He was not at this time an official combatant and could have been shot as a spy.

Before long he contrived to escape and traveled almost 300 miles to Portuguese Lourenco Marques in Delgagoa Bay. He was helped by an English mine manager who smuggled him onto a train. This exploit made him a hero back home. Still a war correspondent, Churchill obtained a commission in the South African Light Horse, fought at Spion Kop and was one of the first into Ladysmith and Pretoria; receiving, with his cousin The Duke of Marlborough, the surrender of fifty-two Boer prison camp guards. He published two books on the Boer war in 1900. He was still only twenty-six.

 Sir Winston Churchill -- Early Political Career

Winston Churchill succeeded in entering parliament in 1890 as a conservative MP and proved a controversial figure with a mind very much of his own. He changed sides to the Liberals and achieved office, eventually becoming Home Secretary in 1910. In 1911 he took charge in person when anarchists were cornered in a blazing building and shooting it out with Scots Guards.

Later that year, Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty and used his great energy to spur on military reform, including naval aviation, tanks, and conversion from coal to oil.

His involvement in the disastrous Gallipoli landings on the Dardanelles during World War I caused him to be demoted. He eventually resigned and rejoined the army, though still an MP, and served on the Western Front. In July 1917 Churchill became Minister of Munitions. After the war he served as Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air till 1921 when he was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies. He signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, establishing the Irish Free State.

In the 1922 election he lost his seat and gradually moved back towards the Conservatives, gaining a seat in 1924. He succeed in his youthful ambition, to be appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1924. He was advised to return Britain to the Gold Standard, and his usual energetic pursuit of what proved to be a wrong policy resulted in deflation, unemployment, and the miners' strike, leading to the General Strike of 1926.

The Conservatives lost the 1929 election and Churchill entered what he later termed his "wilderness years". He had difficulty accepting the decline of the British Empire and spent much of his time writing the history of his famous ancestor, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.

Adolf Hitler, the Facist, German leader, now entered the scene and Churchill began to realize the danger as Germany rearmed. The then British PM, Neville Chamberlain, preferred appeasement of Hitler, and Churchill was ignored.

When war broke out in 1939, Churchill returned to power as First Lord of the Admiralty. His call for a preemptive occupation of the neutral Norwegian iron-ore port of Narvik and Swedish iron mines was dismissed, allowing the Germans to seize them. When France was invaded in 1940, Chamberlain resigned and Churchill became Prime Minister of an all-party government.

Sir Winston Churchill -- The War Years and Later

As a result of the war with Germany, Winston Churchill was made Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1940. He acted swiftly, appointing himself Minister of Defense, and putting a newspaper baron, Lord Beaverbrook, in charge of aircraft production. Beaverbrook's great ability vastly increased the crucial production of aircraft.

At this time Churchill's gift for oratory achieved its heights. His speeches as Prime Minister inspired the British people and have become legend. The words still ring with strength and vigor: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat." "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". "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".

Churchill was American on his mother's side and his relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American President, proved of utmost importance. The USA supplied vital munitions to Britain and later joined the war. With Germany beaten, Churchill sought reelection and was surprised to be defeated by an electorate seeking change. He continued as Leader of the Opposition and busied himself writing, painting and making speeches. He spoke in support of pan-europeanisation, world peace and the Soviet threat in his famous "Iron Curtain" speech whilst a guest of Harry S. Truman, the new American President.

He returned to power as Prime minister in 1951 and served till resigning in 1955 after a stroke. In 1956 he accepted the Karlspreis Award from the German city of Aachen for contributions to the European idea and peace. He continued to pursue his literary interests and painting whilst remaining an MP till 1964. He had been offered a Dukedom but his son persuaded him to turn it down. In 1963, he became the first person to become an Honorary Citizen of the United States, his mother's country.

There is no doubt that Churchill was an outstanding human being though very much a person of his own time and class. He had a tough constitution, personal bravery, and a very creative and energetic mind. Though prone to bouts of depression, he had boundless enthusiasm for life. It is hard to find anyone to equal his achievements in so many fields over such a long period of time. He was well worthy of the title: The Greatest Briton.

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"It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.... The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts."-- Winston Churchill.

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Note: A common misspelling of Winston is Wiston.
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