Who Is Sir Winston Churchill?

Learn about Sir Winston Churchill's life and accomplishments by reading this article.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace on November 30, 1874. His father was Lord Randolph Churchill and his mother, the daughter of an American, was Jennie Jerome.

Winston Churchill had an illustrious and varied career in politics, the military, and as an author. He graduated from Sandhurst in 1895 and later became an officer in the 4th Hussars. While on leave he went to Cuba as a reporter for London's Daily Graphic. Militarily, he served in India and in 1898 fought in the cavalry against the Dervishes in the Sudan. In 1899 the Morning Post sent him, as a reporter, to cover the South African War. While there he was captured and imprisoned by the Boers. He eventually escaped and his stories of all these events gained him fame as a news writer.

In 1900, he ran for parliament as a Conservative and won a seat. A few years later he would shift his alliance to the Liberals. As a rising star in the Liberal Party he became undersecretary for the colonies. Under Prime Minister Asquith, he served England as President of the Board of Trade and Home Secretary. Churchill championed old age pensions and was active in setting up a new series of labor laws. In 1911 he was named First Lord of the Admiralty and presided over the British navy before the outbreak of World War I.

In 1908 Churchill married Clementine Hozier. They had five children, one of which died before adulthood. The marriage was a long and happy one. He was her 'pug'. She was his 'cat'.

The Dardanelles expedition, a plan to outflank the Germans, was a disaster for the British military. It had been his idea and as a result Churchill lost his admiralty post in 1915 and was sent to serve on the front lines in France. In January 1916 he was appointed as Lieutenant Colonel of the 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers.

Re-elected in 1917 he was named minister of munitions and later secretary of state for war and air from 1918 to 1921. As colonial secretary in 1921-22, he helped negotiate the treaty to set up Ireland. Support for the Labour party was growing before the 1922 election and appendicitis kept him from campaigning. Clementine often spoke in his place, and one time was spat on for wearing pearls. The result of the election was that Churchill was "without a seat, without a party and without an appendix."

Between 1922 and 1924 Churchill left the Liberal party and rejoined the Conservatives. Anyone could 'rat', he stated, but it took ingenuity to 're-rat'. He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer - a position he held until the election of 1929. Churchill was far from a financial wizard but he decided to return the country to a gold standard. The subsequent increase in unemployment was one cause of the general strike of 1926. His aggressive anti labor policies earned the lasting distrust of the labor movement and the ire of the press. He was defeated at the next election.

Between 1929 and 1939, Churchill was out of office but wrote much and stayed in the public eye. He supported Edward VIII in the abdication crisis of 1936 and vehemently opposed Indian independence. He warned many about the coming threat from Nazi Germany but no one was listening. When World War II started Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain appointed him first lord of the admiralty again. In May 1940 Chamberlain resigned and Churchill became Prime Minister. He was a gifted speaker and his energy and refusal to make peace with Hitler were crucial in inspiring British resistance to Germany until the United States joined the war.

He met President Franklin Roosevelt at sea and addressed the U.S. Congress in 1941 and 1942. He also went to Moscow twice to see Stalin, visited battlefronts and attended many international conferences. It should be remembered that he turned 70 years old during the war. He tried to project a public image as a fit leader but the strain was hard on his health. He enjoyed massive public support during the war but in July 1945 the British people voted for social reform and elected a Labour government. Winston Churchill became leader of the opposition.

In 1946 he visited the United States and made a speech in Fulton, Missouri where he was the first to use the term "Iron Curtain." Re-elected Prime Minister in 1951, illness forced his resignation in 1955. During that short term he ended nationalization in the steel and auto industries. In 1953 he was knighted, and awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his writing and public speaking. He kept his seat in Parliament until 1964.

Churchill was one of the greatest public figures of the 20th century. He was always full of energy, courage, and innovation. Winston Churchill died on January 24, 1965. His state funeral was the first such ever given to a commoner since the funeral of the Duke of Wellington.

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