The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, K.G. (November 30, 1874 - January 24, 1965) was a British politician, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II.
Born at Blenheim Palace, near the town Woodstock, 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 Jennie Jerome (née Jeanette Jerome) of Brooklyn, New York, a daughter of American millionaire Leonard Jerome.
In 1893 he enrolled in the Royal Military College. He graduated two years later ranked eighth in his class. He was appointed Second Lieutenant in the 4th Hussars cavalry. In 1895, he went to Cuba as a military observer with the Spanish army in its fight against the independentists. He also reported for the Saturday Review.
A young Churchill
The first notable appearance of Winston Churchill was as a war correspondent in the second Anglo-Boer war between Britain and self-proclaimed Afrikaaners 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).
Churchill used the status achieved to begin a political career which would last a total of sixty-five years, first standing for Parliament in 1899 and serving as an MP in the House of Commons from 1900 to 1922 and from 1924 to 1964. At first a member of the Conservative Party, he 'crossed the floor' in 1904 to join the Liberals.
In the 1906 general electiomn, 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.
Winston Churchill (highlighted) at Sidney Street, 3 January 1911
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 fierce 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 was 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 a all-party coalition government, the Conservatives demanded Churchill's demotion as the price for entry. For several months Churchill served in the non-portolio 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 remained 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.
In Decembet 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 ending of the war Churchill served as both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air (1919-1921). Churchill suggested chemical weapons be used "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment". He said "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effects should be good, and it would spread a lively terror." Churchill was also a staunch advocate of foreign intervention in the Russian Civil War, declaring that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle." He became Secretary of State for the Colonies 1921 and was a signatory of the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 which established the Irish Free State.
In October 1922, Churchill underwent an operation to remove his appendix. When he came to he learnt 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. The victorious candidates for the two-member seat included the Prohibitionist Edwin Scrymgeour. 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 that "Anyone can rat [change parties], but it takes a certain ingenuity to rerat." He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924 under Stanley Baldwin and oversaw the UK's return to the Gold Standard. During the General Strike of 1926, Churchill was reported to have suggested that machine guns should 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 next few years concentrating on his writing, including the 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 Germany's rearmament. For a time he was a lone voice calling on Britain to re-arm 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 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 isolated and in a bruised position for some time after this.
Role as Wartime Prime Minister
Dwight D. Eisenhower with Winston Churchill during World War II
At the outbreak of the Second World War Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty On 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 Max Aitken, (Lord Beaverbrook) in charge of aircraft production. It was Aitken's astounding business acumen that allowed Britain to quickly gear up aircraft production and engineering that eventually made the difference in the war.
His speeches at that time were a great inspiration to the embattled United Kingdom. His famous "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech was his first as Prime Minister. He followed that closely, before the Battle of Britain, with "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."
His good relationship with U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt secured the United Kingdom vital supplies via the North Atlantic Ocean shipping routes. 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 establish the pattern for most of the world's current Special Forces. The Russians referred to him as the "British Bulldog."
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 successful taken neighboring 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 an successful Japanese invasion. The bombing of Dresden shortly before the end of the war, a mostly civilian target with many refugees from the East and of alleged little military value. However, bombing of Dresden was effectively the help for Soviet ally.
Chiang Kai-shek, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Churchill at the Cairo Conference in 1943
Churchill was one of the driving forces behind the treaties that would re-draw post-WWII European and Asian boundaries. The boundary between North Korea and South Korea were proposed at the Yalta Conference, as well as the expulsion of Japanese 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 Truman, Churchill, and Stalin at Potsdam (Article XIII of the Potsdam protocol).
One of these settlements was about the borders of Poland, i.e. the boundary between Poland and Soviet Union, so called Curzon line and the Germany and Poland, so called the Oder-Neisse line. Despite the fact, that Poland was the first country that resisted Hitler, Polish borders and government were determined by Great Powers without asking the voice of Polish government. Polish soldiers, during Battle of England the only allies of England, felt betrayed. The faith of an ally Poland, and enemy Germany, was decided basically in the same manner.
As part of the settlement was an agreement to transfer of 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 vastly 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 broders. As Churchill expounded in the House of Commons in 1944, "Expulsion is the method which, in so far 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..."
Although the importance of Churchill's role in World War II was undeniable, he produced many enemies in his own country. His expressed contempt for ideas such as public health care and for better education for the majority of the population in particular 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.
Winston Churchill was an early supporter of the pan-Europism that eventually lead 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 honor). Churchill was also instrumental in giving France a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (which he supported in order to have another European power to counter-balance the Soviet Union's permanent seat).
At the beginning of the Cold War he coined the term the "Iron Curtain," a phrase that entered the public consciousness after a 1946 speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri when he 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."
Churchill during his second term
Following Labour's defeat in the General Election of 1951, Churchill again became Prime Minister. In 1953 he was awarded two major honours. He was knighted and became 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. During the next few years he revised and finally published a History of the English Speaking Peoples in four volumes. In 1956 he was awarded the Karlspreis of the city of Aachen in Germany, for his idea of a United States of Europe. 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 passing to Richard Austen Butler.
On September 2, 1908, at the socially desirable church of St. Margaret's, Westminster, Churchill married Clementine Churchill (1885-1977), a dazzling but largely penniless beauty. They had five children: Sarah Millicent Hermione Churchill (who became a movie actress of some renown, costarring with Fred Astaire in the film "Royal Wedding"), Randolph Frederick Edward Churchill, Marigold Frances Churchill (who died as a child), Diana Churchill, and Mary Churchill.
Clementine Churchill's mother was Lady (Henrietta) Blanche Ogilvy (1852-1925), the second wife of Sir Henry Montague Hozier and a daughter of the 7th Earl of Airlie. The identity of her father, however, is open to healthy debate. Lady Blanche was well known for sharing her sexual favors and was eventually divorced as a result. She maintained that Clementine's father was Capt. William George "Bay" Middleton, a noted horseman. But Clementine Churchill's biographer Joan Hardwick has surmised that all Lady Blanche's "Hozier" children were actually fathered by her sister Clementine's husband, Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (1837-1916, better known as a grandfather of the infamous Mitford sisters of the 1920s).
Churchill's son Randolph, and grandson, Winston, both followed him into Parliament.
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. This was exactly 70 years to the day after 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 commoner since that of Field Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar in 1914. It was Churchill's wish that, if de Gaulle outlived him, that 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.
At Churchill's request, he was buried in the family plot at Saint Martin's Churchyard, Bladon, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England.
Churchill was also a notable historian, producing many works. Some of his twentieth century writings such as The World Crisis (detailing the First World War) and The Second World War are highly autobiographical, telling the story of the conflict.
Initially Churchill used the name Winston Churchill for his books. However early on he discovered that there was also an American writer of the same name, who had been published first. So as to prevent the two being confused, they agreed that the American would publish as Winston Churchill, and the Englishman as Winston Spencer Churchill (sometimes abreviated to Winston S Churchill).
Churchill's works include:
The River War - Published in 1899 (2 vols) Kitchner's reconquest of the Sudan in 1898. Also published in a 1 vol abridged edn.
Savrola - Churchill's only novel. Published in 1900
Lord Randolph Churchill - A two volume biography of his father.
The World Crisis 6 volumes covering the Great War
My Early Life - An autobiography covering the first quarter century of his career.
Marlborough - A biography of his ancestor, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough Published in 4, 6, and 2 volume editions.
The Second World War 6 volumes (sometimes reprinted as 12)
A History of the English Speaking Peoples
The Scaffolding of Rhetoric - a 1,763-word essay on oratory; unpublished, written 1897.
Painting as a Pastime- a short appreciation of painting
and many more to be added.
See Winston Churchill Quotes
Churchill College, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, was founded in 1960 as the national and commonwealth memorial to Winston Churchill.
The Churchill tank, a heavy infantry tank of World War II, was named in his honor.
Churchill is believed by several writers to have suffered from bipolar disorder and in his last years, Alzheimer's disease; certainly he suffered from fits of depression that he called his "black dogs," Some researchers also believe that Churchill was dyslexic, based on the difficulties he described himself having at school. However, the Churchill Foundation strongly refutes this (Source: http://www.winstonchurchill.org ).
The United States Navy destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DD-81) is named in his honour. Churchill was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.
Churchill was voted as "The Greatest Briton" in 2002 "100 Greatest Britons" poll sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public. He was also named Time Magazine "Man of the Half-Century" in the early 1950s.
The American song writer Jerome Kern was christened Jerome because his parents lived near a park named Jerome Park. This park was in turn named after Churchill's grandfather (the father of Churchill's mother Jennie Jerome)
Churchill's War Cabinet, May 1940 - May 1945
Winston Churchill - Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Leader of the House of Commons.
Neville Chamberlain - Lord President of the Council
Clement Attlee - Lord Privy Seal and effective Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.
Lord Halifax - Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Arthur Greenwood - Minister without Portfolio
August 1940: Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production, joins the War Cabinet
October 1940: Sir John Anderson succeeds Neville Chamberlain as Lord President. Sir Kingsley Wood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour, enter the Cabinet.
December 1940: Anthony Eden succeeds Lord Halifax as Foreign Secretary. Halifax remains in the Cabinet as Ambassador to the United States.
May 1941: Lord Beaverbrook ceased to be Minister of Aircraft Production, but remains in the Cabinet.
June 1941: Lord Beaverbrook becomes Minister of Supply, remaining in the Cabinet.
1941: Oliver Lyttelton enters the Cabinet as Minister Resident in the Middle East.
4 February 1942: Lord Beaverbrook becomes Minister of War Production, his successor as Minister of Supply is not in the War Cabinet.
19 February 1942: Beaverbrook resigns. Clement Attlee becomes Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister. Sir Stafford Cripps succeeds Attlee as Lord Privy Seal and takes over the position of Leader of the House of Commons from Churchill. Sir Kingsley Wood leaves the War Cabinet, though remaining Chancellor of the Exchequer.
22 February 1942: Arthur Greenwood resigns from the Cabinet.
March 1942: Oliver Lyttelton fills the vacant position of Minister of Production ("war" was dropped from the title). Richard Gardiney Casey (a member of the Australian Parliament) succeeds Oliver Lyttelton as Minister Resident in the Middle East.
October 1942: Sir Stafford Cripps retires as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons and leaves the War Cabinet. His successor as Lord Privy Seal is not in the Cabinet, Anthony Eden takes the additional position of Leader of the House of Commons. The Home Secretary, Herbert Stanley Morrison, enters the Cabinet.
September 1943: Sir John Anderson succeeds Sir Kingsley Wood as Chancellor of the Exchequer, remaining in the War Cabinet. Clement Attlee succeeds Anderson as Lord President, remaining also Deputy Prime Minister. Attlee's successor as Dominions Secretary is not in the Cabinet.
November 1943: Lord Woolton enters the Cabinet as Minister of Reconstruction.
Winston Churchill's Caretaker Cabinet, May - July 1945
Winston Churchill - Prime Minister and Minister of Defense
Lord Woolton - Lord President of the Council
Lord Beaverbrook - Lord Privy Seal
Sir John Anderson - Chancellor of the Exchequer
Sir Donald Bradley Somervell - Secretary of State for the Home Department
Anthony Eden - Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the House of Commons
Oliver Stanley - Secretary of State for the Colonies
Lord Cranborne - Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs
Sir James Grigg - Secretary of State for War
Leo Amery - Secretary of State for India and Burma
Lord Rosebery - Secretary of State for Scotland
Harold Macmillan - Secretary of State for Air
Brendan Bracken - First Lord of the Admiralty
Oliver Lyttelton - President of the Board of Trade and Minister of Production
Robert Spear Hudson - Minister of Agriculture
Richard Austen Butler - Minister of Labour
Winston Churchill's Third Cabinet, October 1951 - April 1955
Winston Churchill - Prime Minister and Minister of Defense
Lord Simonds - Lord Chancellor
Lord Woolton - Lord President of the Council
Lord Salisbury - Lord Privy Seal
Richard Austen Butler - Chancellor of the Exchequer
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe - Secretary of State for the Home Department
Anthony Eden - Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Oliver Lyttelton - Secretary of State for the Colonies
Lord Ismay - Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
James Stuart - Secretary of State for Scotland
Peter Thorneycroft - President of the Board of Trade
Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell - Paymaster-General
Sir Walter Monckton - Minister of Labour
Henry Crookshank - Minister of Health and Leader of the House of Commons
Harold Macmillan - Minister of Housing and Local Government
Lord Leathers - Minister for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel, and Power
March 1952: Lord Salisbury succeeds Lord Ismay as Commonwealth Relations Secretary. Salisbury remains also Lord Privy Seal. Lord Alexander succeeds Churchill as Minister of Defense.
May 1952: Henry Crookshank succeeds Lord Salisbury as Lord Privy Seal. Salisbury remains Commonwealth Relations Secretary. 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 as Minister of Defense. Duncan Sandys succeeds Macmillan as Minister of Housing and Local Government. Osbert Peake, the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, enters the Cabinet.