Sir Winston Churchill is often mentioned as the most popular prime minister in modern Britain’s history. He had a military career too before joining the politics. The twice resident of 10 Downing Street led Britain in World War II against Nazi Germany. Much of the credits of Axis Power’s defeat in Europe is given to Winston Churchill.
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born on 30 November 1874 in Oxfordshire, England. However he grew up in Dublin due to his father’s posting. Churchill was not a progressive student in his early school life. After changing couple of school, he admitted in a local rifle school in 1888. It was the foundation of his later military career.
In the rifle school too, Churchill’s performance remained in a bad shape. He had to try thrice to get admission to British Royal Military College from the rifle school. However he did quite good in the college. Churchill stood 20th out of 130 in the graduation exam.
Churchill’s military career was a short one but eventful. He was deployed in north-western India and Sudan. Churchill from front observed the Battle of Omdurman in 1898.
While in Army, Churchill used to right military articles for ‘Pioneer Mail’ and the ‘Daily Telegraph’. He wrote his experiences in military in the books ‘Malakand Field Force’ (1898) and ‘The River War’ (1899).
Churchill left the army in 1899. He joined in the ‘Morning Post’ as war correspondent. He was imprisoned by the Boer community while reporting on ‘Boer War’ in South Africa.
Churchill managed to escape and after traveling 300 miles arrived in Portuguese-ruled territory in Mozambique. He gained notable coverage in British media during these incidents. After returning to Britain, Churchill described his experiences in his book ‘London to Ladysmith via Pretoria’ (1900).
In Parliament and In Government
Churchill became a member of parliament on Conservative Party ticket from Oldham in 1900. Despite a Conservative member, Churchill had his support for social reforms too. Thinking that the party was failing to deliver those, he joined the Liberal Party in 1904. Churchill was elected member of parliament from Liberal Party in 1908. He was also appointed as the president of the Board of Trade.
Winston Churchill married Clementine Ogilvy Hozier in 1908. They had five children named Diana, Randolph, Sarah, Marigold and Mary. Marigold died of tonsillitis at the age of two and a half.
First World War and Later On
Winston Churchill was appointed as the ‘First Lord of the Admiralty’ in 1911. This post was kind of political chief of British Navy. The first World War broke out in 1914. Due to huge British casualties in the ‘Battle of Gallipoli’ in early 1915, Winston Churchill was removed from the ‘First Lord of the Admiralty’ post. He resigned from government by the end of 1915.
Churchill was appointed as the minister of munitions in 1917. Productions of tanks, war planes and ammunition was under Churchill’s department. First World War ended in 1918.
In 1922, Winston Churchill failed to be re-elected as member of parliament due to the rift inside Liberal Party. Disappointed Churchill left the party and returned to his old Conservative Party once again.
Second World War
During the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1930s, leaders in Britain weren’t much worried about him. In fact the British government used to praise many of the Nazi government’s policies.
But as Germany started to control it’s weaker neighbors by 1938, British politicians including Winston Churchill became alarmed.
As Germany dared to invade Poland on 1 September 1939, Britain gave a short ultimatum to Nazis. As it was ignored totally, Britain and France declared war against Germany on 3 September. The Second World War started officially.
Winston Churchill was again appointed as the ‘First Lord of the Admiralty’. He was also included in the war-time cabinet. On April 1944, Churchill was made chairman of the Military Coordinating Committee.
Within days, Germany invaded Norway too. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain faced strong criticism for not doing enough to prevent that as there was scope to occupy Norway’s major mines and seaports before Germany entered the country. Chamberlain resigned in the following month.
King George appointed Winston Churchill as the new prime minister and defense minister. Within hours, Germany invaded and occupied their three western neighbors Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Two days later, they entered into France too. As a large and major territory of Europe went under Nazi control, Churchill’s Britain alone had to face Hitler’s Germany.
Britain in Battle
Winston Churchill formed his coalition government having Labour, Liberal and Conservative members in it. He placed talented and capable people in key posts. On 18 June 1940, Churchill in his historic address to the parliament warned the ‘Battle of Britain’ was about to begin. He kept the dream of defeating Nazis alive. He also advocated for a coalition with United States and Soviet Union.
After the German ally Japan attacked Pearl Harbour naval base on 7 December 1941, United States officially entered into the war. Churchill became more convinced about their victory against the Axis Power. In later months he worked closely with US President Roosevelt and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to form a war-time coalition as soon as possible.
Through Churchill’s continuous effort, the much anticipated military coalition named ‘Allied Power’ including United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France was built against the Germany, Italy and Japan’s coalition called ‘Axis Power’.
With the combined fight of US, Soviet, France, Britain and others around the globe, soon the Allied forces started winning the battles over the Axis forces. After a six years long unprecedented bloodshed and casualties, the Second World War at last ended in 1945 by the surrender of Germany on 7/8 May and Japan on 2 September.
After the War
Though received a heroic status in Britain after the World War II, Churchill failed to convince his countrymen about his plans on post war recovery. As a result, Churchill and his Conservative Party tasted a bitter defeat in the general election held on 5 july 1945, just two months after Germany’s surrender in the war.
In next six years Winston Churchill established himself as a strong opposition leader. In the 1951 general election, Conservatives won the majority. Churchill once again sat on prime minister’s chair.
On 23 Jun 1953, Churchill had a severe stroke. His body was partially paralyzed. After couple of months’ treatment, Churchill returned to the office. However he was getting that like before he won’t be able to fully contribute to his job anymore. Accepting the reality, Winston Churchill stepped down as prime minister on April 1955.
Nobel and Knighthood
For his contribution in leading Britain in World War II, Winston Churchill was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1953. In the same year, Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for ‘his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values’.
Winston Churchill took his last breath on 24 January 1965 in London. State mourning was declared for seven days across Britain. World leaders remembered his legacy and courage during the World War.
Churchill’s body was laid in Westminster Hall for three day for people to pay their last respect. His funeral was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral on 30 January. Queen Elizabeth and 3,500 invitees including 5 kings, 1 queen, 1 emperor, 15 presidents, 14 Prime ministers and 10 former leaders attended the service.
After the funeral, Churchill was taken to his family plot in Bladon, near his birthplace. There Churchill was buried in the graveyard of St. Martin’s Church.
Apart from politics, Winston Churchill was also known for his writings and drawings. Churchill still has a deep impact and influence on British society even after so many years of his death. In the 2002 BBC opinion poll, Winston Churchill was voted as the ‘Greatest Briton of all time’ leaving behind personalities like William Shakespeare, Charles Darwin to Princess Diana or Queen Elizabeth.