Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill

Churchill wearing a suit, standing and holding a chair
The Roaring Lion, an iconic portrait by Yousuf Karsh, taken at the Canadian Parliament, December 1941
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
26 October 1951 – 5 April 1955
DeputyAnthony Eden
Preceded byClement Attlee
Succeeded byAnthony Eden
In office
10 May 1940 – 26 July 1945
MonarchGeorge VI
DeputyClement Attlee (1942–1945)
Preceded byNeville Chamberlain
Succeeded byClement Attlee
Leadership positions
Leader of the Opposition
In office
26 July 1945 – 26 October 1951
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byClement Attlee
Succeeded byClement Attlee
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
9 November 1940 – 6 April 1955
Preceded byNeville Chamberlain
Succeeded byAnthony Eden
Ministerial offices
Minister of Defence
In office
28 October 1951 – 1 March 1952
Preceded byManny Shinwell
Succeeded byThe Earl Alexander of Tunis
In office
10 May 1940 – 26 July 1945
Preceded byThe Lord Chatfield (Coordination of Defence)
Succeeded byClement Attlee
First Lord of the Admiralty
In office
3 September 1939 – 11 May 1940
Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain
Preceded byThe Earl Stanhope
Succeeded byA. V. Alexander
Ministerial offices
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
6 November 1924 – 4 June 1929
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Preceded byPhilip Snowden
Succeeded byPhilip Snowden
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
13 February 1921 – 19 October 1922
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byThe Viscount Milner
Succeeded byThe Duke of Devonshire
Secretary of State for Air
In office
10 January 1919 – 13 February 1921
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byWilliam Weir
Succeeded byFrederick Guest
Secretary of State for War
In office
10 January 1919 – 13 February 1921
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byThe Viscount Milner
Succeeded byLaming Worthington-Evans
Minister of Munitions
In office
17 July 1917 – 10 January 1919
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byChristopher Addison
Succeeded byAndrew Weir
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
25 May 1915 – 25 November 1915
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byEdwin Montagu
Succeeded byHerbert Samuel
First Lord of the Admiralty
In office
24 October 1911 – 25 May 1915
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byReginald McKenna
Succeeded byArthur Balfour
Home Secretary
In office
19 February 1910 – 24 October 1911
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byHerbert Gladstone
Succeeded byReginald McKenna
President of the Board of Trade
In office
12 April 1908 – 14 February 1910
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byDavid Lloyd George
Succeeded bySydney Buxton
Parliamentary offices
Member of Parliament
for Woodford
In office
5 July 1945 – 15 October 1964
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Epping
In office
29 October 1924 – 5 July 1945
Preceded byLeonard Lyle
Succeeded byLeah Manning
Member of Parliament
for Dundee
In office
24 April 1908 – 15 November 1922
Serving with Alexander Wilkie
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Member of Parliament
for Manchester North West
In office
8 February 1906 – 24 April 1908
Preceded byWilliam Houldsworth
Succeeded byWilliam Joynson-Hicks
Member of Parliament
for Oldham
In office
24 October 1900 – 12 January 1906
Preceded byWalter Runciman
Succeeded byJohn Albert Bright
Personal details
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

(1874-11-30)30 November 1874
Blenheim, Oxfordshire, England
Died24 January 1965(1965-01-24) (aged 90)
Kensington, London, England
Resting placeSt Martin's Church, Bladon
Political party
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Years of service1893–1924
RankSee list
Commands6th Battalion,
 Royal Scots Fusiliers
AwardsSee list

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was a member of the Liberal Party.

Of mixed English and American parentage, Churchill was born in Oxfordshire to a wealthy, aristocratic family. He joined the British Army in 1895, and saw action in British India, the Anglo–Sudan War, and the Second Boer War, gaining fame as a war correspondent and writing books about his campaigns. Elected an MP in 1900, initially as a Conservative, he defected to the Liberals in 1904. In H. H. Asquith's Liberal government, Churchill served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty, championing prison reform and workers' social security. During the First World War, he oversaw the Gallipoli Campaign; after it proved a disaster, he resigned from government and served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front. In 1917, he returned to government under David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, then as Secretary of State for War and Air, and finally for the Colonies, overseeing the Anglo-Irish Treaty and Britain's Middle East policy. After two years out of Parliament, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government, returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure and depressing the UK economy.

Out of office during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in calling for British rearmament to counter the growing threat from Nazi Germany. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was re-appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1940 he became prime minister, replacing Neville Chamberlain. Churchill oversaw British involvement in the Allied war effort against Germany and the Axis powers, resulting in victory in 1945. His wartime leadership was widely praised, although acts like the Bombing of Dresden and his wartime response to the Bengal famine generated controversy. After the Conservatives' defeat in the 1945 general election, he became Leader of the Opposition. Amid the developing Cold War with the Soviet Union, he publicly warned of an "iron curtain" of Soviet influence in Europe and promoted European unity. Re-elected Prime Minister in 1951, his second term was preoccupied with foreign affairs, including the Malayan Emergency, Mau Mau Uprising, Korean War, and a UK-backed Iranian coup. Domestically his government emphasised house-building and developed a nuclear weapon. In declining health, Churchill resigned as prime minister in 1955, although he remained an MP until 1964. Upon his death in 1965, he was given a state funeral.

Widely considered one of the 20th century's most significant figures, Churchill remains popular in the UK and Western world, where he is seen as a victorious wartime leader who played an important role in defending Europe's liberal democracy from the spread of fascism. Also praised as a social reformer and writer, among his many awards was the Nobel Prize in Literature. Conversely, his imperialist views and comments on race, as well as his sanctioning of human rights abuses in the suppression of anti-imperialist movements seeking independence from the British Empire, have generated considerable controversy.

Early life

Childhood and schooling: 1874–1895

Blenheim Palace, Churchill's ancestral home and his birthplace

Churchill was born at the family's ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, on 30 November 1874,[1] at which time the United Kingdom was the dominant world power.[2] Direct descendants of the Dukes of Marlborough, his family were among the highest levels of the British aristocracy,[3] and thus he was born into the country's governing elite.[4] His paternal grandfather, John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, had been a Member of Parliament (MP) for ten years, a member of the Conservative Party who served in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.[5] His own father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had been elected Conservative MP for Woodstock in 1873.[6] Lord Randolph had many Jewish friends whom Winston admired and may have shaped his immediate hatred of Hitler and efforts to prevent the Holocaust.[7] His mother, Jennie Churchill (née Jerome), was from an American family whose substantial wealth derived from finance.[8] The couple had met in August 1873, and were engaged three days later, marrying at the British Embassy in Paris in April 1874.[9] The couple lived beyond their income and were frequently in debt;[10] according to the biographer Sebastian Haffner, the family were "rich by normal standards but poor by those of the rich".[11]

Churchill, aged six, in 1881[12]

In 1876 John Spencer-Churchill was appointed Viceroy of Ireland, with Randolph as his private secretary, resulting in the Churchill family's relocation to Dublin, when the entirety of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom.[13] It was here that Jennie's second son, Jack, was born in 1880;[14] there has been speculation that Randolph was not his biological father.[15] Throughout much of the 1880s Randolph and Jennie were effectively estranged, and during this time she had many suitors.[16] Churchill had virtually no relationship with his father;[17] referring to his mother, Churchill later stated that "I loved her dearly—but at a distance."[18] His relationship with Jack was warm.[15] In Dublin, the brothers were cared for primarily by their nanny, Elizabeth Everest.[19] Churchill nicknamed her "Woomany",[20] and later wrote that "She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of the twenty years I had lived."[21]

Aged seven, he began boarding at St. George's School in Ascot, Berkshire; he hated it, did poorly academically, and regularly misbehaved.[22] Visits home were to Connaught Place in London, where his parents had settled,[23] while they also took him on his first foreign holiday, to Gastein in Austria-Hungary.[24] As a result of poor health, in September 1884 he moved to Brunswick School in Hove; there, his academic performance improved but he continued to misbehave.[25] He narrowly passed the entrance exam which allowed him to begin studies at the elite Harrow School in April 1888.[26] There, his academics remained high—he excelled particularly in history—but teachers complained that he was unpunctual and careless.[27] He wrote poetry and letters which were published in the school magazine, Harrovian,[28] and won a fencing competition.[29] His father insisted that he be prepared for a career in the military, and so Churchill's last three years at Harrow were spent in the army form.[30] He performed poorly in most of his exams.[31]

On a holiday to Bournemouth in January 1893, Churchill fell and was knocked unconscious for three days.[32] In March he took a job at a cram school in Lexham Gardens, South Kensington,[32] before holidaying in Switzerland and Italy that summer.[33] After two unsuccessful attempts to gain admittance to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he succeeded on his third attempt.[34] There, he was accepted as a cadet in the cavalry,[35] starting his education in September 1893.[31] In August 1894 he and his brother holidayed in Belgium,[36] and he spent free time in London, joining protests at the closing of the Empire Theatre, which he had frequented.[37] His Sandhurst education lasted for 15 months; he graduated in December 1894.[31] Shortly after Churchill finished at Sandhurst, in January 1895, his father died; this led Churchill to adopt the belief that members of his family inevitably died young.[38]

Cuba, India, and Sudan: 1895–1899

Churchill in the military dress uniform of the Fourth Queen's Own Hussars at Aldershot in 1895.[39]

In February 1895, Churchill was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars regiment of the British Army, based at Aldershot.[40] In July, he rushed to Crouch Hill, North London to sit with Everest as she lay dying, subsequently organising her funeral.[41] Churchill was eager to witness military action and used his mother's influence to try to get himself posted to a war zone.[42] In the autumn of 1895, he and Reginald Barnes traveled to Cuba to observe its war of independence; they joined Spanish troops attempting to suppress independence fighters and were caught up in several skirmishes.[43] He also spent time in New York City, staying with the wealthy politician Bourke Cockran, who profoundly influenced the young Churchill.[44] Churchill admired the United States, writing to his brother that it was "a very great country" and telling his mother "what an extraordinary people the Americans are!"[45]

With the Hussars, Churchill arrived in Bombay, British India, in October 1896.[46] They were soon transferred to Bangalore, where he shared a bungalow with Barnes.[47] Describing India as a "godless land of snobs and bores",[48] Churchill remained there for 19 months, during the course of which he made three visits to Calcutta, expeditions to Hyderabad and the North West Frontier, and two visits back to Britain.[49] Believing himself poorly educated, he began a project of self-education,[50] reading the work of Plato, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, and Henry Hallam.[51] Most influential for him were Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Winwood Reade's The Martyrdom of Man, and the writings of Thomas Babington Macaulay.[52]

Interested in British parliamentary affairs,[53] in one letter he declared himself "a Liberal in all but name", but added that he could never endorse the Liberal Party's support for Irish home rule.[54] Instead, he allied himself to the Tory democracy wing of the Conservative Party, and on a visit home gave his first public speech for the Conservative's Primrose League in Bath.[55] Reflecting a mix of reformist and conservative perspectives, he supported the promotion of secular, non-denominational education while opposing women's suffrage, referring to the Suffragettes as "a ridiculous movement".[56]

A depiction of the Battle of Omdurman; in the battle, Churchill took part in a cavalry charge

Churchill decided to join Bindon Blood's Malakand Field Force in its campaign against Mohmand rebels in the Swat Valley of Northwest India.[57] Blood agreed on the condition that Churchill be assigned as a journalist; to ensure this, he gained accreditation from The Pioneer and The Daily Telegraph, for whom he wrote regular updates.[58] In letters to family, he described how both sides in the conflict slaughtered each other's wounded, although he omitted any reference to such actions by British troops in his published reports.[59] He remained with the British troops for six weeks before returning to Bangalore in October 1897.[60] There, he wrote his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, which was published by Longman to largely positive reviews.[61] He also wrote his only work of fiction, Savrola, a roman à clef set in an imagined Balkan kingdom. It was serialised in Macmillan's Magazine between May–December 1899 before appearing in book form.[62]

While in Bangalore in the first half of 1898, Churchill explored the possibility of joining Herbert Kitchener's military campaign in the Sudan.[63] Kitchener was initially reluctant, claiming that Churchill was simply seeking publicity and medals.[64] After spending time in Calcutta, Meerut, and Peshawar, Churchill sailed back to England from Bombay in June.[65] There, he used his contacts—including a visit to the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury at 10 Downing Street—to get himself assigned to Kitchener's campaign.[66] He agreed that he would write a column describing the events for The Morning Post.[67] Arriving in Egypt, he joined the 21st Lancers at Cairo before they headed south along the River Nile to take part in the Battle of Omdurman against the army of Sudanese leader Abdallahi ibn Muhammad.[68] Churchill was critical of Kitchener's actions during the war, particularly the latter's unmerciful treatment of enemy wounded and his desecration of Muhammad Ahmad's tomb in Omdurman.[69] Following the battle, Churchill gave skin from his chest for a graft for an injured officer.[70] Back in England by October, Churchill wrote an account of the campaign, published as The River War in November 1899.[71]

Attempts at a Parliamentary career and South Africa: 1899–1900

Churchill in 1900 around the time of his first election to Parliament.[72]

Seeking a parliamentary career, Churchill pursued political contacts and gave addresses at three Conservative Party meetings.[73] At this point he courted Pamela Plowden; although a relationship did not ensue, they remained lifelong friends.[74] In December he returned to India for three months, largely to indulge his love of the game polo.[74] While in Calcutta, he stayed in the home of Viceroy George Nathaniel Curzon.[75] On the journey home, he spent two weeks in Cairo, where he was introduced to the Khedive Abbas II,[76] before arriving in England in April.[77] He refocused his attention on politics, addressing further Conservative meetings and networking at events such as a Rothschild's dinner party.[78] He was selected as one of the two Conservative parliamentary candidates at the June 1899 by-election in Oldham, Lancashire.[79] Although the Oldham seats had previously been held by the Conservatives, the election was a narrow Liberal victory.[80]

Anticipating the outbreak of the Second Boer War between Britain and the Boer Republics, Churchill sailed from Southampton to South Africa as a journalist writing for the Daily Mail and Morning Post.[81] From Cape Town, in October he travelled to the conflict zone near Ladysmith, then besieged by Boer troops, before spending time at Estcourt and then heading for Colenso.[82] After his train was derailed by Boer artillery shelling, he was captured as a prisoner of war and interned in a Boer POW camp in Pretoria.[83] In December, Churchill and two other inmates escaped the prison over the latrine wall. Churchill stowed aboard a freight train and later hid within a mine, shielded by the sympathetic English mine owner. Wanted by the Boer authorities, he again hid aboard a freight train and travelled to safety in Portuguese East Africa.[84]

Sailing to Durban, Churchill found that his escape had attracted much publicity in Britain.[85] In January 1900 he was appointed a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse regiment, joining Redvers Buller's fight to relieve the Siege of Ladysmith and take Pretoria.[86] In his writings during the campaign, he chastised British hatred for the Boer, calling for them to be treated with "generosity and tolerance" and urging a "speedy peace";[87] after the war he called for the British to be magnanimous in victory.[88] He was among the first British troops into Ladysmith and Pretoria. He and his cousin, the Duke of Marlborough, were able to get ahead of the rest of the troops in Pretoria, where they demanded and received the surrender of 52 Boer prison camp guards.[89] After the victory in Pretoria, he returned to Cape Town and sailed for Britain in July. In May, while he had still been in South Africa, his Morning Post despatches had been published as London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, which sold well.[90]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Winston Churchill
العربية: ونستون تشرشل
azərbaycanca: Uinston Çörçill
Bân-lâm-gú: Winston Churchill
беларуская: Уінстан Чэрчыль
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ўінстан Чэрчыль
Bikol Central: Winston Churchill
български: Уинстън Чърчил
Fiji Hindi: Winston Churchill
贛語: 邱吉爾
गोंयची कोंकणी / Gõychi Konknni: Winston Churchill
한국어: 윈스턴 처칠
Արեւմտահայերէն: Ուինսթըն Չըրչիլ
Bahasa Indonesia: Winston Churchill
interlingua: Winston Churchill
لۊری شومالی: ڤینستون چئرچیل
Lëtzebuergesch: Winston Churchill
Livvinkarjala: Winston Churchill
la .lojban.: .uinstyn. tcyrtcil.
македонски: Винстон Черчил
მარგალური: უინსტონ ჩერჩილი
مازِرونی: چرچیل
Bahasa Melayu: Winston Churchill
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဝင်စတန် ချာချီ
Nederlands: Winston Churchill
नेपाल भाषा: विन्स्टन चर्चिल
Napulitano: Winston Churchill
norsk nynorsk: Winston Churchill
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Winston Churchill
پنجابی: ونسٹن چرچل
Piemontèis: Winston Churchill
Plattdüütsch: Winston Churchill
português: Winston Churchill
русиньскый: Вінстон Черчіл
संस्कृतम्: विन्स्टन चर्चिल
Simple English: Winston Churchill
slovenčina: Winston Churchill
slovenščina: Winston Churchill
српски / srpski: Винстон Черчил
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Winston Churchill
татарча/tatarça: Уинстон Черчилль
українська: Вінстон Черчилль
vepsän kel’: Čerčill' Uinston
Tiếng Việt: Winston Churchill
文言: 邱吉爾
粵語: 邱吉爾
žemaitėška: Winston Churchill