Winston Leonard Churchill was a British aristocrat, and member of the ancient Spencer family that had origins in mediaeval England. He was born on 40th November 1874, and educated in three different schools where he proved to be a poor student with a rebellious streak. This was probably due to the relationship with his parents that was distant from an early age.
But he also demonstrated considerable literary skills from quite a young boy and this would play an important role in his later life.
After leaving school he attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and graduated as a cavalry officer in 1894. He saw action is several campaigns in the late 19th Century when he also acted as a newspaper war correspondent, gaining considerable public acclaim in the process.
As a civilian he was captured by the Boers in South Africa in 1899 and sent to a prison camp from which he famously escaped and eventually returned to England as a hero. He stood for Parliament soon after and became Member for Oldham in the 1900 by – election.
He was found to be an efficient and able politician and was given increasingly important cabinet positions, including President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and then, just before the outbreak of World War One, First Lord of the Admiralty.
Role in WW1
- Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty at the beginning of the war.
- He was one of the principal architects of the Gallipoli Campaign that ended disastrously and led his resignation from parliament.
- At the age of 41, in an effort to restore his reputation, he rejoined the Army as a front line Battalion Commander and saw action on the Western Front in 1916.
- He returned to Parliament in 1917 and finished the war as Minister of Munitions.
After the War
His career after the war was mainly of a political nature, serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative Party from 1924 to 1929, followed by an extended period during the 1930’s when he was out of office.
However he was one of the first to recognize the rising menace of the Nazi Party in Germany during the 1930’s and he agitated strongly for Britain to build into a state of war readiness. He returned to his old job as Lord of the Admiralty in 1939, and was then elected Prime Minister of Britain on 1940, following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.
His period as leader during World War 2 showed inspired leadership, particularly during the extended period that England bore the full brunt of attacks from Nazi Germany. He became a symbol of British resistance, using regular radio broadcasts to spread his messages to the people.
He retired from public life in 1955, and was granted a State Funeral on his death in 1965. He remarked some time before:
I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.
Churchill was named the Greatest Briton in History following a television poll conducted by the BBC in 2002.
Don’t miss The World Wars, a mini-series event that takes viewers on an epic and ground-breaking ride through the bloodiest century in history.
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