Winston Churchill Biography

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, PC, DL, FRS, Hon. RA (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice (1940–45 and 195155). A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, and an artist. He is the only British prime minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.

Churchill was born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer; his mother, Jenny Jerome, an American socialite. As a young army officer, he saw action in British India, the Sudan and the Second Boer War. He gained fame as a war correspondent and through books he wrote about his campaigns.

At the forefront of politics for fifty years, he held many political and cabinet positions. Before the First World War, he served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty as part of the Asquith Liberal government. During the war, he continued as First Lord of the Admiralty until the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign, which he had sponsored, caused his departure from government. He then served briefly on the Western Front, commanding the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He returned to government as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air. After the War, Churchill served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative (Baldwin) government of 1924–29, controversially returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-War parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure on the UK economy. Also controversial were Churchill's opposition to increased home rule for India, and his resistance to the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII.

Out of office and politically "in the wilderness" during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in warning about the danger from Hitler and in campaigning for rearmament. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. His steadfast refusal to consider defeat, surrender or a compromise peace helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the War when Britain stood alone in its active opposition to Hitler. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people. He led Britain as Prime Minister until victory had been secured over Nazi Germany.

After the Conservative Party lost the 1945 election, he became Leader of the Opposition. In 1951, he again became Prime Minister, before retiring in 1955. Upon his death, Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen ever.[1] Named the Greatest Briton of all-time in a 2002 poll, Churchill is widely regarded as being among the most influential men in British history.

Contents

Family and early life

Churchill aged seven in 1881.

Born into the aristocratic Spencer family,[2] Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, like his father, used the surname Churchill in public life.[3] His ancestor George Spencer had changed his surname to Spencer-Churchill in 1817 when he became duke of Marlborough, to highlight his descent from John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Winston's father, Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, was a politician; and his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill (née Jennie Jerome) was the daughter of American millionaire Leonard Jerome. Winston was born on 30 November 1874, two months prematurely, in a bedroom in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire,[4]

From age two to six, he lived in Dublin where his Grandfather was appointed Viceroy and who had Churchill's father as his private secretary. Churchill had one brother, John Strange Spencer-Churchill who was born during this time in Ireland. It has been claimed that the young Winston first developed his fascination with militarism from watching the many military parades pass by the Vice Regal Lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland).[5][6]

Winston's earliest attempts at education occurred in Dublin. A governess tried teaching him reading, writing and arithmetic. His first reading book was called 'Reading Without Tears'. His Nanny 'Mrs' Everest was his confidante, nurse and mother and they spent many happy hours playing in the Phoenix Park. [7]

Blenheim Palace, the Churchill family home.

Independent and rebellious by nature, Churchill generally did poorly in school, for which he was punished. He was educated at three independent schools: St. George's School, Ascot, Berkshire, followed by Brunswick School in Hove, near Brighton (the school has since been renamed Stoke Brunswick School and relocated to Ashurst Wood in West Sussex) and then at Harrow School from 17 April 1888, where his military career began. Within weeks of his arrival, he had joined the Harrow Rifle Corps.[8] He earned high marks in English and History and was the school's fencing champion.

He was rarely visited by his mother (then known as Lady Randolph Churchill) 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.[9] Because of the lack of parental contact, he became very close to his nanny, Elizabeth Anne Everest, whom he used to call "Old Woom".[10] His father died on 24 January 1895, aged 45, leaving Churchill with the conviction that he too would die young and so should be quick about making his mark on the world.[11]

Speech impediment

Various authors in the 1920s–1940s mentioned Churchill's stutter and Churchill described himself as having a "speech impediment" which he consistently worked to overcome. His dentures were specially designed to aid his speech (Demosthenes' pebbles).[12] After many years, he could finally state, "My impediment is no hindrance".[13]

The Churchill Centre, however, flatly denies the claim that Churchill stuttered while confirming that he did have difficulty pronouncing the letter S and spoke with a lisp[14] as did his father.[15]

Marriage and children

A young Winston Churchill and fiancée Clementine Hozier shortly before their marriage in 1908.

Churchill met his future wife, Clementine Hozier, in 1904 at a ball in Crewe House, home of the Earl of Crewe and Crewe's wife Margaret Primrose (daughter of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery).[16] In 1908, they met again at a dinner party hosted by Lady St Helier. Churchill found himself seated beside Clementine, and they soon began a lifelong romance.[17] He proposed to Clementine during a house party at Blenheim Palace on 10 August 1908, in a small Temple of Diana.[18]

On 12 September 1908, they were married in St. Margaret's, Westminster. The church was packed; the Bishop of St Asaph conducted the service.[19] The couple spent their honeymoon at Highgrove House in Eastcote.[20] In March 1909, the couple moved to a house at 33 Eccleston Square.

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.[21] On 28 May 1911, their second child, Randolph, was born at 33 Eccleston Square.[22]

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 Antwerp by the Cabinet to "stiffen the resistance of the beleaguered city" after news that the Belgians intended to surrender the town.[23]

Clementine gave birth to her fourth child, Marigold Frances Churchill, on 15 November 1918, four days after the official end of the First World War.[24] In the early days of August 1921, the Churchills' children were entrusted to a French nursery governess in Kent named Mlle Rose. Clementine, meanwhile, travelled to 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 into septicaemia. Following advice from a landlady, Rose sent for Clementine. However the illness turned fatal on 23 August 1921, and Marigold was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery three days later.[25]

On 15 September 1922, the Churchills' last child was born, Mary. Later that month, the Churchills bought Chartwell, which would be Winston's home until his death in 1965.[26][27]

Military service

Churchill in military uniform in 1895

After Churchill left Harrow in 1893, he applied to attend the Royal Military College, 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,[28] 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 Cornet (Second Lieutenant) in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars on 20 February 1895.[8] In 1941, he received the honour of being appointed Colonel of the Hussars.

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 regiment. His mother provided an allowance of £400 per year, but this was repeatedly overspent. According to biographer Roy Jenkins, this is one reason he took an interest in war correspondence.[29] 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[30] and wrote his own books about the campaigns.

Cuba

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.[8] He had fond memories of Cuba as a "…large, rich, beautiful island…"[31] 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. Bourke was an established American politician, and a member of the House of Representatives. He greatly influenced Churchill, both in his approach to oratory and politics, and encouraging a love of America.[32]

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."[33]

India

In early October 1896, he was transferred to Bombay, British India. He was considered one of the best polo players in his regiment and led his team to many prestigious tournament victories.[34]

A young Winston Churchill on a lecture tour of the United States in 1900

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 in the North West Frontier of India and he asked his superior officer if he could join the fight.[35] He fought under the command of General Jeffery, who was the commander of the second brigade operating in Malakand, in the Frontier region of British India. Jeffery sent him with fifteen scouts to explore the Mamund 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."[36] 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 desertion.[37] 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."[36][38] 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.[39] His account of the battle was one of his first published stories, for which he received £5 per column from The Daily Telegraph.[40]

Sudan and Oldham

The River War was published in 1899

Churchill was transferred to Egypt in 1898. He visited Luxor before joining an attachment of the 21st Lancers serving in the Sudan under the command of General Herbert Kitchener. During this time he encountered two military officers with whom he would work during the First World War: Douglas Haig, then a captain and David Beatty, then a gunboat lieutenant.[41] While in the Sudan, he participated in what has been described as the last meaningful British cavalry charge, at the Battle of Omdurman in September 1898.[42] 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; Th

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