Churchill, Sir Winston (Leonard Spencer) (1874 --
British statesman, prime minister (1940--5, 1951--5), and author, born
in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, SC England, UK, the eldest son of
Randolph Churchill. He trained at Sandhurst, and was gazetted to the 4th
Hussars in 1895. His army career included fighting at Omdurman (1898)
with the Nile Expeditionary Force. During the second Boer War he acted
as a London newspaper correspondent. Initially a Conservative MP (1900),
he joined the Liberals in 1904, and was colonial under-secretary (1905),
President of the Board of Trade (1908), home secretary (1910), and First
Lord of the Admiralty (1911). In 1915 he was made the scapegoat for the
Dardanelles disaster, but in 1917 became minister of munitions. After
World War I, he was secretary of state for war and air (1919--21),
and - as a "Constitutionalist' supporter of the Conservatives -
Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924--9).
In 1929 he returned to the Conservative fold,
but remained out of step with the leadership until World War 2, when he
returned to the Admiralty; then, on Chamberlain's defeat (May 1940), he
formed a coalition government, holding both the premiership and the
defence portfolio, and leading Britain alone through the war against
Germany and Italy with steely resolution. Defeated in the July 1945
election, he became a pugnacious Leader of the Opposition. In 1951 he
was prime minister again, and after 1955 remained a venerated
backbencher. In his last years, he was often described as "the
greatest living Englishman'. He achieved a world reputation not only as
a great strategist and inspiring war leader, but as the last of the
classic orators with a supreme command of English; as a talented
painter; and as a writer with an Augustan style, a great breadth of
mind, and a profound sense of history. He was knighted in 1953, and was
awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature the same year. He left a widow,
Clementine Ogilvy Hozier (1885--1977), whom he had married in 1908, and
who was made a life peer in 1965 for her charitable work (Baroness
Spencer-Churchill of Chartwell)..
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC, 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.
the 1945 election, he became
Leader of the Opposition. In 1951, he again became Prime Minister before
finally retiring in 1955.
Elizabeth II offered to create him 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.
Upon his death the Queen granted him the honour of a
state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of statesmen in the
Independent and rebellious by nature, Churchill generally did poorly in
school, for which he was punished. He entered
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
history and was also the school's
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. This diagnosis is
contemporaries writing in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. 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.
The National Cluttering Association however maintains that Churchill had not a
stutter but a
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
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 Churchills' children were entrusted to a
French nursery governess in Kent named Mlle Rose. Clementine, meanwhile,
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
septicaemia. Following advice from a landlady, Rose sent for Clementine.
However the illness turned fatal on 23 August 1921, and Marigold was buried in
Kensal Green Cemetery three days later.
On 15 September 1922, the Churchills' last child was born,
Mary. Later that month, the Churchills bought
which would be Winston's home until his death in 1965.
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
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
His mother provided an allowance of £400 per year, but this was repeatedly
overspent. According to biographer
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.
Churchill in military uniform in 1895
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, member of the House of Representatives and potential
presidential candidate. 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
British India. He was considered one of the best
polo players in
his regiment and led his team to many prestigious tournament victories.
A young Winston Churchill on a lecture tour of the United States in
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
He fought under the command of General Jeffery, who was the commander of the
second brigade operating in
in what is now
Jeffery sent him with fifteen scouts to explore the
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
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
per column from
The Daily Telegraph.
Churchill was transferred to
Egypt in 1898
where he visited
Luxor before joining an attachment of the
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
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
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. In 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
His actions during the ambush of the train led to speculation that he would be
Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for gallantry in the face of the
enemy, but this did not occur.
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 miles (480 km) to
Lourenço Marques in
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Deedes explained to a gathering of the
Royal Historical Society in 2001 why Churchill went to the front line: "He
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."
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