Winston Churchill was undoubtedly one of the most iconic leaders that Britain has ever seen.
He was born on November 30, 1874 in Oxfordshire to an aristocratic family. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a well-known politician at the time, and most likely influenced his son’s decision to take up politics as a grown man.
From the ages of 19 to 20, Churchill attended the Royal Military College. Surprisingly, considering his accomplishments later in life, Churchill failed the entrance exam for the Royal Military College numerous times before eventually being accepted.
It was here that he gained a solid grounding in battle tactics, military law, topography and fortification that would serve him well during World War II.
And, despite his less-than-impressive introduction to the school, Churchill graduated from the Royal Military College with honours and was placed eighth in a class of 150, according to The Churchill Centre.
While serving with the army, Churchill saw plenty of military action – albeit as a newspaper correspondent – in places such as in India and the Sudan. In 1899 – when he was just 25 years old – Churchill was sent to South Africa to cover the events of the Boer War.
Churchill was captured during an ambush, but managed to escape after one month by climbing over the walls of his prison, hopping onto a train and fortuitously coming across a British expatriate, one John Howard.
Howard fed and watered the young man and secured him safe passage to Durban, South Africa. Here, Churchill states in his autobiography, “I became for the time quite famous”.
The story of his capture and escape had somehow found its way to England, and Churchill got his first taste of being in the spotlight.
Churchill returned to England in 1900 and was elected to Parliament. He held a variety of offices during his political career – most famously, of course, that of Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945, and again between 1951 and 1955.
The Churchill Centre describes his political career as having its ups and downs. He was, for instance, blamed for a botched attempt to seize the Dardanelles and Gallipoli Peninsula during World War I – an event that would haunt him “for years to come”.
However, it’s his achievements as Prime Minister during World War II that have made Churchill a household name.
He united the Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties into a Coalition Government, worked hard to create a force of Allied Powers with the United States and the Soviet Union and refused to surrender to Nazi Germany.
These actions, as well as his skill as an orator, gave a nation and its people hope when they needed it most, and made sure Churchill’s legacy is still a part of our lives in 2014.
Winston Churchill’s Legacy
Churchill’s can-do attitude in the face of adversity, encapsulated by his world-famous “V for Victory” sign, continues to inspire leaders to this day.
His tendency to think outside the box, as evidenced by his reliance on the Royal Air Force and his support for technological developments in World War II, is also an attribute that characterises the most successful businesses and people in the modern age.
If you want to learn more about this iconic leader, tune into Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny on Tuesday, January 21, at 8.30pm – only on the History Channel.
This fascinating programme will delve into Churchill’s first tumultuous years as Prime Minister, his dealings with Adolf Hitler and his determination to lead Britain to victory.