After the end of World War II, Winston Churchill's Conservative Party lost the 1945 election, forcing him to step down as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. For six years he served as the Leader of the Opposition. During these years Churchill continued to influence world affairs. In 1946 he gave his Iron Curtain speech which spoke of the expansionist policies of the USSR and the creation of the Eastern Bloc; Churchill also argued strongly for British independence from the European Coal and Steel Community; he saw this as a Franco-German project and Britain still had an empire. In the General Election of 1951 Labour was defeated.
Churchill became Prime Minister for a second time. He continued to lead Britain but was to suffer increasingly from health problems. Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally he resigned from the Cabinet in 1955. However he continued to sit as an MP for Woodford until he retired from politics in 1964. Churchill died on 24 January 1965 and was granted the honour of a state funeral. He was buried in his family plot in St Martin's Church, Bladon, near to where he was born at Blenheim Palace.
Although Churchill's role in World War II had generated him much support from the British population, he had many opponents. He also expressed contempt for a number of popular ideas, in particular creating a system of national public health care and improving public education. Partly as a result of this Churchill was defeated in the 1945 election by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. There are different theories as to why he lost this election; it could be that the voters thought that the man who had led them so well in war was not the man to lead them in peace, or that the election result was not a reaction against Churchill personally, but against the Conservative Party's record in the 1930s under Baldwin and Chamberlain. Also, the proposed reformist policies of the Labour Party—such as introducing the NHS—appealed strongly to voters. During the opening broadcast of the election campaign, Churchill astonished many of his admirers by warning that a Labour government would introduce into Britain "some form of Gestapo, no doubt humanely administered in the first instance". Churchill had been genuinely worried during the war by the inroads of state bureaucracy into civil liberty, and was clearly influenced by Friedrich Hayek's anti-totalitarian tract, The Road to Serfdom (1944).
His Resignation Honours included recommendations outside of party politics for the Chiefs of Staff of the armed services and the Ministry of Defence, which had the approval of the new Prime Minister.
Although Churchill was no longer Prime Minister, he did not leave the public eye for many years; his image as a world leader and seasoned diplomat allowed him to remain a figurehead in British politics. He became the leader of the opposition, the Conservative Party. While acting as leader Churchill accomplished a great many things, and made his voice heard on proposals which he strongly opposed. The first major issue where Churchill made his view known was whether or not to release India from British control. In a speech to the House of Commons in early March 1947, Churchill warned against handing power over to India too soon. Churchill felt that the political parties in India did not truly represent the people, and that in a few years no trace of the new government would remain.
Winston Churchill was an early supporter of pan-Europeanism. In his speech at the University of Zurich in 1946, Winston Churchill called for a "United States of Europe" and the creation of a "Council of Europe". He also participated in the Hague Congress of 1948, which discussed the future structure and role of this Council of Europe. The Council of Europe was finally founded as the first European institution through the Treaty of London of 5 May 1949 and has its seat in Strasbourg.
Churchill's opening speech at the post-war 1948 Congress of Europe was again wholeheartedly in favour of European integration:
We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved.
The United Kingdom did not however join the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, with Churchill reasoning:
Where do we stand? We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a Federal European system. We feel we have a special relation to both. This can be expressed by prepositions, by the preposition "with" but not "of"—we are with them, but not of them. We have our own Commonwealth and Empire.
Churchill also valued closer relations with non-European countries, as evidenced in his speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, given on 5 March 1946 where, as a guest of Harry S. Truman, he declared:
Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organisation will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States.
It was also during this speech that he popularised the term "The Iron Curtain":
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere.
According to a memorandum from the FBI's archives, in 1947 Winston Churchill urged the US to conduct a preemptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union in order to win the Cold War while they had the chance. Churchill reportedly spoke to right-wing Republican senator Styles Bridges, asking him to persuade then-President Harry Truman to launch a nuclear strike to destroy the Kremlin, which would then make it easy to handle the directionless Russia. The memorandum claims Churchill "stated that the only salvation for the civilization of the world would be if the President of the United States would declare Russia to be imperiling world peace and attack Russia". Russia would have been defenseless against a nuclear strike at the time of the Churchill's proposal, since the Soviets did not obtain the atomic bomb until 1949.
His personal physician, Lord Moran, recalled that Churchill already advocated a nuclear blow against the Soviets during a conversation in 1946:
America knows that fifty-two percent of Russia's motor industry is in Moscow and could be wiped out by a single bomb. It might mean wiping out three million people, but they [the Soviets] would think nothing of that. They think more of erasing an historical building like the Kremlin.
Churchill wrote six volumes on his experiences in World War II. The series entitled, The Second World War, added Churchill's personal thoughts, beliefs, and experiences to the historical record of World War II. Churchill traded the literary rights to his books in return for double the salary he made as Prime Minister. Major points in Churchill's books included his disgust in the handling of Hitler prior to the onset of World War II, primarily with the policy of appeasement which the allied powers implemented in dealing with the German tyrant.
After the General Election of 1951, Churchill again became Prime Minister. His third government—after the wartime national government and the brief caretaker government of 1945—would last until his resignation in 1955. During this period, he renewed what he called the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States, and engaged himself in the formation of the post-war order. He tried in vain to manoeuvre the cabinet into restricting West Indian immigration. "Keep England White" was a good slogan, he told the cabinet in January 1955. Ian Gilmour records Churchill saying to him, in 1955, about immigration: "I think it is the most important subject facing this country, but I cannot get any of my ministers to take any notice".
In what would become one of Churchill's most famous speeches, the Fulton Speech would coin a phrase which would be used for the remainder of the Cold War. The iron curtain is what Churchill referred to the Soviet Union's growing influence in Eastern Europe. At the time that Churchill made the speech both the United States and his own government publicly disagreed with him. His speech would later be hailed as having great prophetic value. Later it would be shown that President Truman and the Prime Minister both shared Churchill's feelings, but felt they could not disclose this publicly.
Churchill would coin another famous term, this time relating to the relationship between the United States and Britain. This term "special relationship" referred to the closeness of the Anglo-American connection in war, peace, and in politics. The relationship had fluctuated during the histories of the two countries, but had been visibly stronger in the 20th century, especially during World War II. Churchill played a major role in the "special relationship", becoming what appeared to be close friends with Roosevelt during the war years. Churchill would later try to regain this relationship with President Truman.
His domestic priorities were, however, overshadowed by a series of foreign policy crises, which were partly the result of the continued decline of British military and imperial prestige and power. Being a strong proponent of Britain as an international power, Churchill would often propose to meet such crises with direct action. In 1941, during World War II, he had stated, "I did not become Prime Minister to preside over a dismemberment of the British Empire." Churchill devoted much of his time in office to international relations and although Churchill did not get on well with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Churchill in attempting to maintain the special relationship made four official transatlantic visits to America during his second term as Prime-Minister.
When President Eisenhower was elected in 1952, Churchill made haste in arranging a meeting with the new leader in hopes of establishing a stronger relationship with the United States. This would prove to be nearly impossible, due to Churchill's age. He was beginning to show losses of faculty, and allegedly refused to wear his hearing aid while in meetings, causing the conversations to be carried on at a screaming volume. Eisenhower remarked in his diary how Churchill seemed set in his ways, and that Churchill seemed to think that the world's problems could be solved merely by the close cooperation of Britain and the United States.
Churchill would also try to establish better relations with the Soviet Union when, in 1953, Stalin died. He saw the death of Stalin to mean that the Soviet Union would be under far better leadership than it had been, and that the opportunity to establish better British-Soviet relations should be seized. Unfortunately for Churchill, the United States as well as his own party saw this unilateral action as hasty.
In 1951, grievances against the colonial distribution of land came to a head with the Kenya African Union demanding greater representation and land reform. When these demands were rejected, more radical elements came forward, launching the Mau Mau rebellion in 1952. On 20 October 1952, a state of emergency was declared, and British troops were flown to Kenya to deal with the rebellion. As both sides increased the ferocity of their attacks, the country moved to full-scale civil war.
In 1953, the Lari massacre, perpetrated by Mau-Mau insurgents against Kikuyu loyal to the British, changed the political complexion of the rebellion and gave the public-relations advantage to the British. Churchill's strategy was to use a military response, combined with implementing many of the concessions that Attlee's government had blocked in 1951. He ordered an increased military presence and appointed General Sir George Erskine, who would implement Operation Anvil in 1954 that defeated the rebellion in the city of Nairobi. Churchill ordered peace talks to be opened, but these collapsed shortly after his leaving office.
In Malaya, a rebellion against British rule had been in progress since 1948. Once again, Churchill's government inherited a crisis, and once again Churchill chose to use direct military action against those in rebellion while attempting to build an alliance with those who were not. He stepped up the implementation of a "hearts and minds" campaign and approved the creation of fortified villages, a tactic that would become a recurring part of Western military strategy in South-east Asia.
The Malayan Emergency was a more direct case of a guerrilla movement, centred in an ethnic group, but backed by the Soviet Union. As such, Britain's policy of direct confrontation and military victory had a great deal more support than in Iran or in Kenya. At the high point of the conflict, over 40,000 British and Commonwealth troops were stationed in Malaya. While the rebellion was slowly being defeated, it was equally clear that colonial rule from Britain was no longer plausible.
In 1953, plans were drawn up for independence for Malaya, Singapore and the other crown colonies in the region. The first elections were held in 1955, just days before Churchill's own resignation, and in 1957, under Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, Malaya became independent.
Churchill had suffered a mild stroke while on holiday in the south of France in the summer of 1949. By the time he formed his next government he was slowing down noticeably enough for George VI, as early as December 1951, to consider inviting Churchill to retire in the following year in favour of Anthony Eden, but it is not recorded if the king made that approach before his own death in February 1952.
The strain of carrying the Premiership and Foreign Office contributed to his second and more severe stroke at 10 Downing Street after dinner on the evening of 23 June 1953. Despite being partially paralysed down one side, he presided over a Cabinet meeting the next morning without anybody noticing his incapacity. Thereafter his condition deteriorated, and it was thought that he might not survive the weekend. Had Eden been fit, Churchill's premiership would most likely have been over. News of this was kept from the public and from Parliament, who were told that Churchill was suffering from exhaustion. He went to his country home, Chartwell, to recuperate, and by the end of June he astonished his doctors by being able, dripping with perspiration, to lift himself upright from his chair. He joked that news of his illness had chased the trial of the serial killer John Christie off the front pages.
Churchill was still keen to pursue a meeting with the Soviets and was open to the idea of a reunified Germany. He refused to condemn the Soviet crushing of East Germany, commenting on 10 July 1953 that "The Russians were surprisingly patient about the disturbances in East Germany". He thought this might have been the reason for the removal of Beria. Churchill returned to public life in October 1953 to make a speech at the Conservative Party conference at Margate. In December 1953 Churchill met Eisenhower in Bermuda.
Churchill was cross about friction between Eden and Dulles (June 1954). On the trip home from another Anglo-American conference, the diplomat Pierson Dixon compared US actions in Guatemala to Soviet policy in Korea and Greece, causing Churchill to retort that Guatemala was a "bloody place" he'd "never heard of". Churchill was still keen for a trip to Moscow, and threatened to resign, provoking a crisis in the Cabinet when Lord Salisbury threatened to resign if Churchill had his way. In the end the Soviets proposed a five power conference, which did not meet until after Churchill had retired. By the autumn Churchill was again postponing his resignation. Eden, now partly recovered from his operations, became a major figure on the world stage in 1954, helping to negotiate peace in Indo-China, an agreement with Egypt and to broker an agreement between the countries of Western Europe after the French rejection of the EDC.
Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally, Churchill at last retired as prime minister in 1955 and was succeeded by Anthony Eden. He suffered another mild stroke in December 1956.
Churchill's fondness for alcohol was well documented. While in India and South Africa, he was in the habit of adding small amounts of whisky to the water he drank in order to prevent disease. He was quoted on the subject as saying that "by dint of careful application I learned to like it." He consumed alcoholic drinks on a near-daily basis for long periods in his life, and frequently imbibed before, after, and during mealtimes, although he is not generally considered by historians to have been an alcoholic. The Churchill Centre states that Churchill made a bet with a man with the last name of Rothermere (possibly one of the Viscounts Rothermere) in 1936 that Churchill would be able to successfully abstain from drinking hard liquor for a year; Churchill apparently won the bet.
Churchill retired as Prime Minister in 1955 and was succeeded by Anthony Eden, who had long been his ambitious protégé (three years earlier, Eden had married Churchill's niece, Anne Clarissa Spencer-Churchill, his second marriage). Shortly preceding his resignation, Churchill experienced an extended bout of somnambulism, a condition to which he was prone. Upon his resignation, the Queen offered him a dukedom but he declined the offer.
Over the coming years, Churchill spent less time in Parliament, occasionally voting in parliamentary divisions but never again speaking in the House. He continued to serve as MP for Woodford until he stood down for the last time at the 1964 General Election. His private verdict on the Suez Crisis was: "I would never have done it without squaring the Americans, and once I'd started I'd never have dared stop". In 1959, he became Father of the House, the MP with the longest continuous service: he had already gained the distinction of being the only MP to be elected under both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. On 27 July 1964, Churchill was present in the House of Commons for the last time, and one day later, on 28 July, a deputation headed by the Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, presented Churchill with a Resolution which had been carried unanimously by the House of Commons. The ceremony was held in Churchill's London home at 28 Hyde Park Gate, and was witnessed by Clementine and his children and grandchildren. It read:
That this House desire to take this opportunity of marking the forthcoming retirement of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Woodford by putting on record its unbounded admiration and gratitude for his services to Parliament, to the nation and to the world; remembers, above all, his inspiration of the British people when they stood alone, and his leadership until victory was won; and offers its grateful thanks to the right honourable Gentleman for these outstanding services to this House and to the nation.
Churchill spent most of his retirement at Chartwell House in Kent, two miles (3 km) south of Westerham. As Churchill's mental and physical faculties decayed, it is often suggested, he began to lose the battle he had fought for so long against the "black dog" of (clinical) depression. However, the biographical evidence, when carefully and comprehensively studied, suggests that "black dog" is more accurately interpreted as Churchill's metaphor for the temporary, non-disabling psychological reactions of worry and anxiety that he manifested throughout his career following severely adverse difficulties and setbacks. The unfailing remedy for him at such times, which he discovered in 1915, was painting; later on, he added bricklaying at Chartwell to his armamentarium. In advanced old age, his faculties too impaired to enable him to paint, he found some solace in the sunshine and colours of the Mediterranean. He took long holidays with his literary adviser Emery Reves and Emery's wife, Wendy Russell, at La Pausa, their villa on the French Riviera, seldom joined by Clementine. He also took eight cruises aboard the yacht Christina as the guest of Aristotle Onassis. Once, when the Christina had to pass through the Dardanelles, Onassis gave instructions that it was to do so during the night, so as not to disturb his guest with unhappy memories.
In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy, acting under authorisation granted by an Act of Congress, proclaimed Churchill the first Honorary Citizen of the United States. Churchill was physically incapable of attending the White House ceremony, so his son and grandson accepted the award for him. As his family life grew more despondent (he was unable to resolve the love-hate relationship between himself and his son) Churchill was also to suffer a further two strokes during the 1960s. On 15 January 1965, Churchill suffered another stroke, this time a severe cerebral thrombosis that left him gravely ill. He died at his home nine days later, at age 90, shortly after eight o'clock on the morning of Sunday 24 January 1965, coincidentally 70 years to the day after his father's death. After his death, Churchill's body was embalmed at his London home by Desmond Henley.
Churchill's state funeral took place on 30 January 1965, after his body lay in state for three days. Dignitaries from over 112 countries attended, and involved a 19-gun salute and Royal Air Force fly-past. His body was laid to rest at St. Martin's Churchyard in Oxfordshire. The official state funeral lasted for four days.
On 9 February 1965, Churchill's estate was probated at £304,044 (equivalent to £5,782,392 in 2018), of which £194,951 (equivalent to £3,707,631 in 2018) was left following payment of death duties. Churchill left £10,000 (equivalent to £190,183 in 2018) to Anthony Montague Browne, his private secretary, and returned a gold cigarette case given to him by the Earl of Birkenhead to the current "holder of that title". Three "brood mares, followers or fillies not exceeding £7500 (equivalent to £142,637 in 2018) in value" were given to Christopher Soames, Baron Soames, his son-in-law.