Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (1874-1965)

CHURCILL, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (1874-1965). In the summer of 1940 when Great Britain was in danger of being invaded by armies of Nazi Germany, it was to Winston Churchill that the nation and indeed and the whole of the Commonwealth looked for the leadership. For the rest of the war against Germany, he was the Prime Minister of Britain and his determination never to give in inspired and encouraged the British people even during the darkest and most difficult days of the fateful years 1940 and 1941. Some of the splendid speeches he made then will always be remembered.

Undaunted, he declared, "… 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. " Winston Churchill came of a famous family. One of his ancestors was the first Duke of Marlborough, a great English general who won the Battle of Blenheim, in Bavaria, in 1704. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a Conservative politician who married an American, Miss Jeannette Jerome, of New York.

Winston was born at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, and attended Harrow School, but was much happier as a cadet at Sandhurst. When he left Sandhurst in 1894, the 20-year-old Lieutenant Churchill had one purpose- to go into action. He achieved this purpose both as a soldier and as a newspaper correspondent in Cuba, India and the Sudan. At the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan, he took part in a great charge of cavalry. In 1899, he went to South Africa- this time purely as a newspaper reporter- to write articles on the Boer War for a British newspaper, the Morning Post.

He was taken prisoner while accompanying a force of soldiers that was ambushed by the Boers but he escaped, jumped on a moving goods train, was a hidden in a mine and finally reached freedom by being smuggled onto another train. In 1900, at the early age of 26, he was elected Conservative M. P. for Oldham, in Lancashire. In 1904 he left the Conservatives, because he did not agree with their trade policy, and joined the Liberals. He became the government minister for the first time in 1905, as Under Secretary of State for the colonies.

Other government posts followed and in 1911 he became First Lord of the Admiralty, which meant that he was responsible for the Royal Navy. World War I was already threatening to break out and he spent much time and energy in making the Navy strong and up-to-date. War started in August 1914 and Churchill continued his work at the Admiralty. He was largely responsible for planning the Dardanelles campaign against Turkey, which took place in 1915, and when it failed, resigned his post. Later in the year he went to fight in France but returned in 1917 to become the Minister of Munitions.

In the next few years, he held several other government appointments but was defeated at the general election in 1922. For some time he had not been in complete agreements with the Liberals and after he was elected to the parliament again, in 1924, he returned to the Conservatives and was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924 to 1929. In 1930s Churchill was not popular with the party he had retuned, and he stood almost alone. He had his ideas about national and international problems, and these did not always agree with those of his party leaders.

He therefore held no government posts for some years. After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 Churchill saw that a war would come and tried to persuade the government and people of Great Britain to prepare for it. When World War II broke out in September 1939 he took office once more as First Lord of the Admiralty. His greatest period and his greatest efforts were still to come, however. In May 1940 the government of which Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister fell, and amidst the danger and confusion on that time Churchill became Prime Minister.

It was characteristic of him that he told parliament: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toils, tears and sweat", but that his aim was, "… victory however long and hard the road may be. " All the main political parties united in his government to form what is called a coalition. Always anxious to see things for himself, Churchill went among the armed forces, to visit factories or to areas badly bombed. His appearance became familiar- a sturdy figure sometimes dressed in a blue garment like a boiler-suit or in his uniform as an Elder Brother of Trinity House with its blue peaked cap.

Sometime, however he wore an ordinary suit with a bow tie and heavy type of hat known as Homburg, or perhaps, a high version of the bowler. He walked quickly, with hunched shoulders, cigar in a mouth and a walking stick in hand. Sometimes he held up his hand making the famous V sign with his fingers, to show his belief in victory. His voice became just as familiar as his appearance for he often spoke over the radio. It was a hard voice, full of courage; he never attempted to pronounce foreign words in anything but an English way- the German word "Nazi" properly pronounced, sounds like "nartsi", but he always made it into "naarzy".

This voice encouraged not only the people of Great Britain but also those who had to listen to it secretly in the countries occupied by Germany. From 1941 to 1945 Churchill tried in every way to build up what he called the "Grand Alliance" of Great Britain, the United States and the U. S. S. R. ; several times he went to distant places, including Washington and Moscow, to meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States and Joseph Stalin of the U. S. S. R. with president Roosevelt he became particularly friendly and their friendship led to closest understanding between the armed forces of the two countries.

After the end of the war with Germany an election was held in Great Britain and Churchill's party was defeated by the Labour party. He therefore ceased to be Prime Minister and was followed in that office by Clement Attlee. Before and especially during the World War II many honours had been given to him but these were few in comparison with those he received after the war was over. In 1956 King George VI conferred upon him the Order of Merit and cities and universities at home and abroad, as well as foreign governments, gave him their highest honours.

Now no longer Prime Minister, he began to write his history of the war and traveled and made speeches in many countries. He enjoyed his old hobby of painting- which often took him to the south of France- and his farm at Chartwell, in Kent, where he had a dairy herd of fine pigs. In 1951 the Conservatives won the general election and Churchill was again Prime Minister until he resigned on grounds of age in 1955. He was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1953. Sir Winston retired from parliament in 1964 and died in London on January 24, 1965.

He was given a state funeral at which the Queen was chief mourner, and was buried at Bladon, Oxforshire. Winston Churchill was one of the great men of all ages. He will be remembered for his sturdy character and individualism, for his writings- the histories of both world wars and several other books including biographies of his father and of the first Duke of Marlborough- for his speeches, as well as for his outstanding service to his country and to the cause of freedom everywhere.