Sir Winston Churchill
|Prime Minister of the United Kingdom|
26 October 1951 – 5 April 1955
|Preceded by||Clement Attlee|
|Succeeded by||Anthony Eden|
10 May 1940 – 26 July 1945
|Deputy||Clement Attlee (1942–1945)|
|Preceded by||Neville Chamberlain|
|Succeeded by||Clement Attlee|
|Father of the House of Commons|
8 October 1959 – 25 September 1964
|Preceded by||David Grenfell|
|Succeeded by||Rab Butler|
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
30 November 1874
Blenheim, Oxfordshire, England
|Died||24 January 1965 (aged 90)|
Kensington, London, England
|Resting place||St Martin's Church, Bladon|
|Civilian awards||Nobel Prize in Literature (1953)|
|Years of service||1893–1924|
Royal Scots Fusiliers
|Military awards||See list|
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led the country to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Apart from two years between 1922 and 1924, Churchill was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1900 to 1964 and represented a total of five constituencies. Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, he was for most of his career a member of the Conservative Party, as leader from 1940 to 1955. He was a member of the Liberal Party from 1904 to 1924.
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. As First Lord 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 and served successively as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, and Secretary of State for the Colonies, overseeing the Anglo-Irish Treaty and British foreign policy in the Middle East. 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 of militarism in 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 the Axis powers, resulting in victory in 1945. 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, especially Anglo-American relations and, despite ongoing decolonisation, preservation of the British Empire. 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 have generated controversy. He has been widely criticised for some wartime events, notably the 1945 bombing of Dresden and the perceived inadequacy of his government's response to the Bengal Famine of 1943.
Churchill was born at his family's ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, on 30 November 1874. As direct descendants of the Dukes of Marlborough, his family were among the highest levels of the British aristocracy, and thus he was born into the country's governing elite. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had been elected Conservative MP for Woodstock in 1873. His mother, Jennie, was a daughter of Leonard Jerome, a wealthy American businessman. The couple had married in April 1874, and, according to the biographer Sebastian Haffner, were "rich by normal standards but poor by those of the rich".
In 1876, Churchill's paternal grandfather, John Spencer-Churchill, was appointed Viceroy of Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom. Randolph became his private secretary, resulting in the family's relocation to Dublin. Winston's brother, Jack, was born there in 1880. Throughout much of the 1880s, Randolph and Jennie were effectively estranged, and the brothers were mostly cared for by their nanny, Elizabeth Everest. Churchill later wrote that "she had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of the twenty years I had lived".
Churchill began boarding at St. George's School in Ascot, Berkshire, at age seven but was not academic and his behaviour was poor. In 1884 he transferred to Brunswick School in Hove, where his academic performance improved. In April 1888, aged 13, he narrowly passed the entrance exam for Harrow School. There, his academics proved high but his teachers again complained about his lack of discipline; his poetry appeared in the Harrovian school magazine. His father wanted him to prepare for a military career and so his last three years at Harrow were in the army form. After two unsuccessful attempts to gain admittance to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he succeeded on his third attempt. He was accepted as a cadet in the cavalry, starting in September 1893. His father died in January 1895, soon after Churchill finished at Sandhurst; this led Churchill to adopt the belief that members of his family inevitably died young.
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. Eager to witness military action, Churchill used his mother's influence to try to get himself posted to a war zone. In the autumn of 1895, he and Reginald Barnes went to Cuba to observe its war of independence and became involved in skirmishes after joining Spanish troops attempting to suppress independence fighters. He proceeded to New York City, staying with the wealthy politician Bourke Cockran, who became a profound influence. Churchill admired the United States, writing to his mother about "what an extraordinary people the Americans are!" With the Hussars, Churchill then arrived in Bombay, British India, in October 1896. Basing himself in Bangalore, he stayed in India for 19 months, visiting Calcutta three times and joining expeditions to Hyderabad and the North West Frontier.
Churchill began a project of self-education while in India, reading a range of authors including Plato, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, Henry Hallam, Edward Gibbon, Winwood Reade, and Thomas Babington Macaulay. Interested in British parliamentary affairs, 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. 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 party's Primrose League in Bath. Mixing reformist and conservative perspectives, he supported the promotion of secular, non-denominational education while opposing women's suffrage.
Churchill volunteered to join Bindon Blood's Malakand Field Force in its campaign against Mohmand rebels in the Swat Valley of north-west India. Blood accepted him on condition that he was assigned as a journalist, the beginning of Churchill's writing career; he filed reports for The Pioneer and The Daily Telegraph. He returned to Bangalore in October 1897 and there wrote his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, which received positive reviews. 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 in 1899 before appearing in book form.
Despite some reluctance by General Herbert Kitchener, who saw him as a glory-hunter, Churchill leveraged his contacts in London—including Prime Minister Lord Salisbury—to obtain a posting to Kitchener's campaign in the Sudan as a journalist for The Morning Post. Churchill joined the 21st Lancers in Cairo and subsequently took an active part in the Battle of Omdurman. 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. Following the battle, Churchill gave skin from his chest for a graft for an injured officer. He returned to England and wrote The River War, an account of the campaign published in November 1899.
Seeking a parliamentary career, Churchill pursued political contacts and gave addresses at Conservative meetings. He was selected as one of the party's two parliamentary candidates at the June 1899 by-election in Oldham, Lancashire. While campaigning in Oldham, Churchill referred to himself as "a Conservative and a Tory Democrat". Although the Oldham seats had previously been held by the Conservatives, the election was a narrow Liberal victory. During this period, he had courted Pamela Plowden, with whom he remained a lifelong friend, and made a return visit to India, during which he stayed in the home of Viceroy George Nathaniel Curzon. En route home, he spent two weeks in Cairo, where he met the Khedive Abbas II.
Anticipating the outbreak of the Second Boer War between Britain and the Boer Republics, Churchill sailed to South Africa as a journalist for the Daily Mail and Morning Post. In October he travelled to the conflict zone near Ladysmith, then besieged by Boer troops, before heading for Colenso. After his train was derailed by Boer artillery shelling, he was captured as a prisoner of war (POW) and interned in a Boer POW camp in Pretoria. In December, Churchill escaped the prison, stowing away aboard freight trains and hiding in a mine to evade his captors. He eventually made it to safety in Portuguese East Africa. His escape attracted much publicity in Britain.
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. He was among the first British troops into Ladysmith and Pretoria. He and his cousin, the Duke of Marlborough, demanded and received the surrender of 52 Boer prison camp guards. Throughout the war, he had publicly chastised anti-Boer prejudices, calling for them to be treated with "generosity and tolerance", and after the war he urged the British to be magnanimous in victory. In July he returned to Britain, where his Morning Post despatches had been published as London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and had sold well.
Churchill rented a flat in London's Mayfair, using it as his base for the next six years. He stood again as one of the Conservative candidates at Oldham in the October 1900 general election, securing a narrow victory to become an MP at age 25. In the same month, he published Ian Hamilton's March, a book about his South African experiences, which became the focus of a lecture tour in November through Britain, America and Canada. MPs were unpaid and the tour was a financial necessity. In America, Churchill met Mark Twain, President McKinley and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt; he did not get on well with Roosevelt. In spring 1901 he gave more lectures in Paris, Madrid and Gibraltar.
In February 1901, Churchill took his seat in the House of Commons, where his maiden speech gained widespread press coverage. He associated with a group of Conservatives known as the Hughligans, although was critical of the Conservative government on various issues. He condemned the British execution of a Boer military commandant, and voiced concerns about the levels of public expenditure; in response, Prime Minister Arthur Balfour asked him to join a parliamentary select committee on the topic. He opposed increases to army funding, suggesting that any additional military expenditure should go to the navy. This upset the Conservative front bench but gained support from Liberals. He increasingly socialised with senior Liberals, particularly Liberal Imperialists like H. H. Asquith. In this context, he later wrote, he "drifted steadily to the left" of British parliamentary politics. He privately considered "the gradual creation by an evolutionary process of a Democratic or Progressive wing to the Conservative Party", or alternately a "Central Party" to unite the Conservatives and Liberals.
By 1903, Churchill was increasingly dissatisfied with the Conservatives, in part due to their promotion of economic protectionism, but also because he had attracted the animosity of many party members and was likely aware that this might have prevented him gaining a Cabinet position under a Conservative government. The Liberal Party was then attracting growing support, and so his defection in 1904 may have also have been influenced by personal ambition. In a 1903 letter, he referred to himself as an "English Liberal ... I hate the Tory party, their men, their words and their methods". In the House of Commons, he increasingly voted with the Liberal opposition against the government. In February 1903, Churchill was among 18 Conservative MPs who voted against the government's increase in military expenditure. He backed the Liberal vote of censure against the use of Chinese indentured labourers in South Africa, and in favour of a Liberal bill to restore legal rights to trade unions. His April 1904 parliamentary speech upholding the rights of trade unions was described by the pro-Conservative Daily Mail as "Radicalism of the reddest type". In May 1903, Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, called for the introduction of tariffs on goods imported into the British Empire from outside; Churchill became a leading Conservative voice against such economic protectionism. Describing himself as a "sober admirer" of "the principles of Free Trade", in July he was a founding member of the anti-protectionist Free Food League. In October, Balfour's government sided with Chamberlain and announced protectionist legislation.
Churchill's outspoken criticism of Balfour's government and imperial protectionism, coupled with a letter of support he sent to a Liberal candidate in Ludlow, angered many Conservatives. In December 1903, the Oldham Conservative Association informed him that it would not support his candidature in the next general election. In March 1904, Balfour and the Conservative front bench walked out of the House of Commons during one of his speeches. In May he expressed opposition to the government's proposed Aliens Bill, which was designed to curb Jewish migration into Britain. He stated that the bill would "appeal to insular prejudice against foreigners, to racial prejudice against Jews, and to labour prejudice against competition" and expressed himself in favour of "the old tolerant and generous practice of free entry and asylum to which this country has so long adhered and from which it has so greatly gained". On 31 May 1904, he crossed the floor, defecting from the Conservatives to sit as a member of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons.
In December 1905, Balfour resigned as Prime Minister and King Edward VII invited the Liberal leader Henry Campbell-Bannerman to take his place. Hoping to secure a working majority in the House of Commons, Campbell-Bannerman called a general election for January 1906, which the Liberals won. Having had a previous invitation from the Manchester Liberals to stand in their constituency, Churchill did so, winning the Manchester North West seat. January also saw the publication of Churchill's biography of his father; he received an advance payment of £8000 for the book, the highest ever paid for a political biography in Britain to that point. It was generally well received. It was also at this time that the first biography of Churchill himself, written by the Liberal Alexander MacCallum Scott, was published.
In the new government, Churchill became Under-Secretary of State for the Colonial Office, a position that he had requested. He worked beneath the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Victor Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin, and took Edward Marsh as his secretary; the latter remained Churchill's secretary for 25 years. In this junior ministerial position, Churchill was first tasked with helping to draft a constitution for the Transvaal. In 1906, he helped oversee the granting of a government to the Orange Free State. In dealing with southern Africa, he sought to ensure equality between the British and Boer. He also announced a gradual phasing out of the use of Chinese indentured labourers in South Africa; he and the government decided that a sudden ban would cause too much upset in the colony and might damage the economy. He expressed concerns about the relations between European settlers and the black African population; after Zulu launched the Bambatha Rebellion in Natal, he complained of Europeans' "disgusting butchery of the natives".
In August 1906, Churchill holidayed on a yacht in Deauville, France, spending much of his time playing polo or gambling. From there he proceeded to Paris and then Switzerland—where he climbed the Eggishorn—and then to Berlin and Silesia, where he was a guest of Kaiser Wilhelm II. He went then to Venice, and from there toured Italy by motorcar with his friend, Lionel Rothschild. In May 1907, he holidayed at the home of another friend, Maurice de Forest, in Biarritz. In the autumn, he embarked on a tour of Europe and Africa. He travelled through France, Italy, Malta, and Cyprus, before moving through the Suez Canal to Aden and Berbera. Sailing to Mombasa, he travelled by rail through the Kenya Colony—stopping for big game hunting in Simba—before heading through the Uganda Protectorate and then sailing up the River Nile. He wrote about his experiences for Strand Magazine and later published them in book form as My African Journey.
When Asquith succeeded Campbell-Bannerman in 1908, Churchill was promoted to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. Aged 33, he was the youngest Cabinet member since 1866. Newly appointed Cabinet ministers were legally obliged to seek re-election at a by-election; in April, Churchill lost the Manchester North West by-election to the Conservative candidate by 429 votes. The Liberals then stood him in a by-election in the Scottish safe seat of Dundee, where he won comfortably. In his Cabinet role, Churchill worked with Liberal politician David Lloyd George to champion social reform. In one speech Churchill stated that although the "vanguard" of the British people "enjoys all the delights of all the ages, our rearguard struggles out into conditions which are crueller than barbarism". To deal with this, he promoted what he called a "network of State intervention and regulation" akin to that in Germany. His speeches on these issues were published in the volumes Liberalism and the Social Problem and The People's Rights.
One of the first tasks he faced was in arbitrating an industrial dispute among ship-workers and their employers on the River Tyne. He then established a Standing Court of Arbitration to deal with future industrial disputes, establishing a reputation as a conciliator. Arguing that workers should have their working hours reduced, Churchill promoted the Mines Eight Hours Bill—which legally prohibited miners working more than an eight-hour day—introducing its second reading in the House of Commons. In 1908, he introduced the Trade Boards Bill to parliament, which would establish a Board of Trade which could prosecute exploitative employers, establish the principle of minimum wage, and the right of workers to have meal breaks. The bill passed with a large majority. In May, he proposed the Labour Exchanges Bill which sought to establish over 200 Labour Exchanges through which the unemployed would be assisted in finding employment. He also promoted the idea of an unemployment insurance scheme, which would be part-funded by the state.
To ensure funding for these social reforms, he and Lloyd George denounced Reginald McKennas' expansion of warship production. Churchill openly ridiculed those who thought war with Germany was inevitable—according to biographer Roy Jenkins he was going through "a pro-German phase"—and in autumn 1909 he visited Germany, spending time with the Kaiser and observing German Army manoeuvres.
In his personal life, Churchill proposed marriage to Clementine Hozier; they were married in September at St Margaret's, Westminster. They honeymooned in Baveno, Venice, and Veverí Castle in Moravia; before settling into a London home at 33 Eccleston Square. The following July they had a daughter, Diana.
To pass its social reforms into law, Asquith's Liberal government presented them in the form of the People's Budget. Conservative opponents of the reform set up the Budget Protest League; supporters of it established the Budget League, of which Churchill became president. The budget passed in the House of Commons but was rejected by the Conservative peers who dominated the House of Lords; this threatened Churchill's social reforms. Churchill warned that such upper-class obstruction would anger working-class Britons and could lead to class war. To deal with the deadlock, the government called a January 1910 general election, which resulted in a narrow Liberal victory; Churchill retained his seat at Dundee. After the election, he proposed the abolition of the House of Lords in a cabinet memorandum, suggesting that it be replaced either by a unicameral system or by a new, smaller second chamber that lacked an in-built advantage for the Conservatives. In April, the Lords relented and the budget was passed.
—Winston Churchill in the House of Commons, 1910
In February 1910, Churchill was promoted to Home Secretary, giving him control over the police and prison services, and he implemented a prison reform programme. He introduced a distinction between criminal and political prisoners, with prison rules for the latter being relaxed. He tried to establish libraries for prisoners, and introduced a measure ensuring that each prison must put on either a lecture or a concert for the entertainment of prisoners four times a year. He reduced the length of solitary confinement for first offenders to one month and for recidivists to three months, and spoke out against what he regarded as the excessively lengthy sentences meted out to perpetrators of certain crimes. He proposed the abolition of automatic imprisonment of those who failed to pay fines, and put a stop to the imprisonment of those aged between 16 and 21 except in cases where they had committed the most serious offences. Of the 43 capital sentences passed while he was Home Secretary, he commuted 21 of them.
One of the major domestic issues in Britain was that of women's suffrage. By this point, Churchill supported giving women the vote, although would only back a bill to that effect if it had majority support from the (male) electorate. His proposed solution was a referendum on the issue, but this found no favour with Asquith and women's suffrage remained unresolved until 1918. Many Suffragettes took Churchill for a committed opponent of women's suffrage, and targeted his meetings for protest. In November 1910, the suffragist Hugh Franklin attacked Churchill with a whip; Franklin was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks.
In the summer of 1910, Churchill spent two months on de Forest's yacht in the Mediterranean. Back in Britain, he was tasked with dealing with the Tonypandy Riot, in which coal miners in the Rhondda Valley violently protested against their working conditions. The Chief Constable of Glamorgan requested troops to help police quell the rioting. Churchill, learning that the troops were already travelling, allowed them to go as far as Swindon and Cardiff, but blocked their deployment; he was concerned that the use of troops could lead to bloodshed. Instead he sent 270 London police—who were not equipped with firearms—to assist their Welsh counterparts. As the riots continued, he offered the protesters an interview with the government's chief industrial arbitrator, which they accepted. Privately, Churchill regarded both the mine owners and striking miners as being "very unreasonable". The Times and other media outlets accused him of being too soft on the rioters; conversely, many in the Labour Party, which was linked to the trade unions, regarded him as having been too heavy-handed.
Asquith called a general election for December 1910, in which the Liberals were re-elected and Churchill again secured his Dundee seat. In January 1911, Churchill became involved with the Siege of Sidney Street; three Latvian burglars had killed several police officers and hidden in a house in London's East End, which was surrounded by police. Churchill joined the police although did not direct their operation. After the house caught on fire, he told the fire brigade not to proceed into the house because of the threat that the armed Latvians posed to them. After the event, two of the burglars were found dead. Although he faced criticism for his decision, he stated that he "thought it better to let the house burn down rather than spend good British lives in rescuing those ferocious rascals".
In March 1911, he introduced the second reading of the Coal Mines Bill to parliament, which—when implemented into law—introduced stricter safety standards to coal mines. He also formulated the Shops Bill to improve the working conditions of shop workers; it faced opposition from shop owners and only passed into law in a much emasculated form. To maintain pressure on this issue, he became president of the Early Closing Association and remained in that position until the early 1940s. In April, Lloyd George introduced the first health and unemployment insurance legislation, the National Insurance Act 1911; Churchill had been instrumental in drafting it. In May, his wife gave birth to their second child, Randolph, named after Churchill's father. In 1911, he was tasked with dealing with escalating civil strife, sending troops into Liverpool to quell protesting dockers and rallying against a national railway strike. As the Agadir Crisis emerged, which threatened the outbreak of war between Germany and France, Churchill suggested that—should negotiations fail—the UK should form an alliance with France and Russia and safeguard the independence of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark in the face of possible German expansionism. The Agadir Crisis had a dramatic effect on Churchill and his views about the need for naval expansion.
In October 1911, Asquith appointed Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty. He settled into his official London residence at Admiralty House, and established his new office aboard the admiralty yacht, the Enchantress. Over the next two and a half years he focused on naval preparation, visiting naval stations and dockyards, seeking to improve naval morale, and scrutinising German naval developments. After the German government passed the German Navy Law to increase warship production, Churchill vowed that Britain would do the same and that for every new battleship built by the Germans, Britain would build two. Believing an oligarchy of "the landlord ascendancy" had taken over Germany, he hoped that war would be averted if Germany's "democratic forces" could re-assert control of its government. To discourage conflict, he invited Germany to engage in a mutual de-escalation of the two countries naval building projects, but his offer was rebuffed.
As part of his naval reforms, he pushed for higher pay and greater recreational facilities for naval staff, an increase in the building of submarines, and a renewed focus on the Royal Naval Air Service, encouraging them to experiment with how aircraft could be used for military purposes. He coined the term "seaplane" and ordered 100 to be constructed. In 1913 he began taking flying lessons at Eastchurch air station, although close friends urged him to stop given the dangers involved. Some Liberals objected to his levels of naval expenditure; in December 1913 he threatened to resign if his proposal for four new battleships in 1914–15 was rejected. In June 1914, he convinced the House of Commons to authorise the government purchase of a 51 percent share in the profits of oil produced by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, to secure continued oil access for the Royal Navy. As a supporter of eugenics, he participated in the drafting of the Mental Deficiency Act 1913; however, the Act, in the form eventually passed, rejected his preferred method of sterilisation of the feeble-minded in favour of their confinement in institutions.
—Winston Churchill, introducing the second reading of the Home Rule Bill, April 1912
Taking centre stage was the issue of how Britain's government should respond to the Irish home rule movement. In 1912, Asquith's government forwarded the Home Rule Bill, which if passed into law would grant Irish home rule. Churchill supported the bill and urged Ulster Unionists—a largely Protestant community who desired continued political unity with Britain—to accept it. He opposed partition of Ireland, and in 1913 suggested that Ulster have some autonomy from an independent Irish government. Many Ulster Unionists rejected any option that left them under the jurisdiction of a Dublin-based government and the Ulster Volunteers threatened an uprising to establish an independent Protestant state in Ulster. Churchill was the Cabinet minister tasked with giving an ultimatum to those threatening violence, doing so in a Bradford speech in March 1914. Following a Cabinet decision, he boosted the naval presence in Ireland to deal with any Unionist uprising; Conservatives accused him of trying to initiate an "Ulster Pogrom". Seeking further compromise to calm the Ulster Volunteers, Churchill suggested that Ireland remain part of a federal United Kingdom; this in turn angered Liberals and Irish nationalists.
—Winston Churchill to his wife, July 1914
Following the June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria there was growing talk of war in Europe. Churchill began readying the navy for conflict. Although there was strong opposition within the Liberal Party to involvement in the conflict, the British Cabinet declared war when Germany invaded Belgium. Churchill was tasked with overseeing Britain's naval warfare effort. In two weeks, the navy transported 120,000 British troops across the English Channel to France. In August, he oversaw a naval blockade of German North Sea ports to prevent them from transporting food by sea; he also sent submarines to the Baltic Sea to assist the Russian Navy against German warships. Also in August, he sent the Marine Brigade to Ostend to force the Germans to reallocate some of their troops away from their main southward thrust.
In September, Churchill took over full responsibility for Britain's aerial defence, making several visits to France to oversee the war effort. While in Britain, he spoke at all-party recruiting rallies in London and Liverpool, and his wife gave birth to their third child, Sarah. In October he visited Antwerp to observe Belgian defences against the besieging Germans; he promised Belgian Prime Minister Charles de Broqueville that Britain would provide reinforcements for the city. The German assault continued, and shortly after Churchill left the city he agreed to a British retreat, allowing the Germans to take Antwerp; many in the press criticised Churchill for this. Churchill maintained that his actions prolonged the resistance, thus enabling the Allies to secure Calais and Dunkirk.
In November, Asquith called a War Council, consisting of himself, Lloyd George, Edward Grey, Kitchener, and Churchill. Churchill proposed a plan to seize the island of Borkum and use it as a post from which to attack Germany's northern coastline, believing that this strategy should shorten the war. Churchill also encouraged the development of the tank, which he believed would be useful in overcoming the problems of trench warfare, and financed its creation with admiralty funds. To relieve Turkish pressure on the Russians in the Caucasus, Churchill was part of a plan to distract the Turkish Army by attacking in the Dardanelles, with the hope that if successful the British could seize Constantinople. In March, a fleet of 13 battleships attacked in the Dardanelles but faced severe problems from submerged mines; in April, the 29th Division began its assault at Gallipoli. Many MPs, particularly Conservatives, blamed Churchill for the failure of these campaigns. Amid growing Conservative pressure, in May, Asquith agreed to form an all-party coalition government; the Conservatives' one condition of entry was that Churchill be demoted from his position at the Admiralty. Churchill pleaded his case with both Asquith and Conservative leader Bonar Law, but ultimately accepted his demotion to the position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
In November 1915, Churchill resigned from the government, although he remained an MP; Asquith rejected his request to be appointed Governor-General of British East Africa. Moving into his brother's home in South Kensington, he and his family spent weekends at a Tudor farmhouse near Godalming, where he took up painting, which became a lifelong hobby.
In November Churchill joined the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, on the Western Front. After a brief trip back to London for Christmas, in January 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and placed in command of the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers. After a period of training, the Battalion was moved to a sector of the Front near Ploegsteert in Belgium. Churchill spent three and a half months at the Front; his Battalion faced continual shelling although no German offensive. He had one narrow escape from death when, at a visit from his staff officer cousin the 9th Duke of Marlborough, a large piece of shrapnel fell between them. In March he returned home briefly, making a speech on naval issues to the House of Commons. In May, the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers were merged into the 15th Division. Churchill did not request a new command, instead securing permission to leave active service.
Back in the House of Commons, Churchill spoke out on war issues, calling for conscription to be extended to the Irish, greater recognition of soldiers' bravery, and for the introduction of steel helmets for troops. He nevertheless was frustrated that there was little for him to do. The failure of the Dardanelles hung over him, with the issue repeatedly being raised by the Conservatives and pro-Conservative press. He argued his case before the Dardanelles Commission, whose published report placed no blame on him for the campaign's failure.
Asquith resigned and Lloyd George became Prime Minister in October 1916; in May 1917, the latter sent Churchill to inspect the French war effort. In July, Lloyd George appointed Churchill Minister of Munitions. In this position, Churchill made a commitment to increase munitions production, streamlined the organisation of the department, and soon negotiated an end to a strike in munitions factories along the Clyde. He ended a second strike, in June 1918, by threatening to conscript strikers into the army. He made repeated trips to France, visiting the Front and meeting with French political leaders, including its Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau. In the House of Commons, he voted in support of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which first gave some British women the right to vote. Following British military gains, in November, Germany surrendered. Four days later, Churchill's fourth child, Marigold, was born.
After the war, Lloyd George called a new election. During the election campaign, Churchill called for the nationalisation of the railways, a control on monopolies, tax reform, and the creation of a League of Nations to prevent future wars. In the election, Churchill was returned as MP for Dundee and Lloyd George retained as Prime Minister. In January 1919, Lloyd George then moved Churchill to the War Office as both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air.
Churchill was responsible for demobilising the British Army, although he convinced Lloyd George to keep a million men conscripted to use as a British Army of the Rhine. Churchill was one of the few government figures who opposed harsh measures against the defeated Germany. He stated that he opposed any punitive measures that would reduce "the mass of the working-class population of Germany to a condition of sweated labour and servitude". He also cautioned against demobilising the German Army, warning that they may be needed as a bulwark against threats from the newly established Soviet Russia.
Churchill was an outspoken opponent of Vladimir Lenin's new Communist Party government in Russia, stating that "of all the tyrannies in history, the Bolshevik tyranny is the worst". British troops were already in parts of the former Russian Empire, assisting the anti-Communist White forces amid the ongoing Russian Civil War. Although initially committed to British involvement, Churchill concluded there was insufficient British desire for another war, and convinced Lloyd George to bring the British troops home, albeit continuing to provide the Whites with arms and supplies. In his words, "if Russia is to be saved [from the Communists], as I pray she may be saved, she must be saved by Russians", not by foreign troops. He took responsibility for evacuating the 14,000 British troops from Russia. After the Soviets won the civil war, Churchill proposed a cordon sanitaire around the country.
Churchill's attentions were also turned to the Irish War of Independence, where he supported the use of the para-military Black and Tans to combat Irish revolutionaries. After British troops in Iraq clashed with Kurdish rebels, Churchill authorised two squadrons to the area, proposing that they be equipped with mustard gas to use against the rebels. More broadly, he saw the occupation of Iraq as a drain on Britain and proposed, unsuccessfully, that the government should hand control of central and northern Iraq back to Turkey.
Churchill became Secretary of State for the Colonies in February 1921. The following month, the first exhibit of his paintings was held; it took place in Paris, with Churchill exhibiting under a pseudonym. In May, his mother died, followed in August by his daughter Marigold. A key issue that year was the ongoing Irish War of Independence. To end it, Churchill pushed for a truce, which came into effect in July. In October, he was among the seven British negotiators who met Sinn Féin leaders in Downing Street. He suggested Ireland be given home rule within the Empire but with the six Protestant-majority counties of Ulster having some autonomy from a Dublin government: the Ulster Unionists rejected this. It was then agreed that Ireland would be partitioned; most of the country would form the Irish Free State, while the Protestant-majority areas would form Northern Ireland and remain part of the UK. This was written into the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which Churchill helped draft. After the treaty, Churchill successfully called for Sinn Féin members who were guilty of murder to have their death penalties waived. As Ireland descended into civil war between supporters and republican opponents of the treaty, Churchill supplied weapons to the forces of Michael Collins' pro-treaty government.
Churchill was responsible for reducing the cost of occupying the Middle East. He urged removing most British troops from Iraq and installing an Arab government. In March he met British officials responsible for governing Iraq in Cairo. They agreed to install Faisal as King of Iraq and his brother, Abdullah, as King of Transjordan. From there he travelled to Mandatory Palestine, where Arab Palestinians petitioned him not to allow further Jewish migration. A supporter of Zionism, he dismissed this. Churchill believed that he could encourage Jewish migration to Palestine while allaying Arab fears that they would become a dominated minority. Only following the 1921 Jaffa riots did he agree to temporary restrictions on Jewish migration to Palestine. With Turkey seeking to expand into areas lost during the First World War, Churchill backed Lloyd George in holding British control of Constantinople. Turkish troops advanced towards the British, leading to the Chanak Crisis, with Churchill calling on British troops to stay firm.
In late 1921 Lloyd George made Churchill chair of a Cabinet Committee on Defence Estimates, which met in January 1922 to determine how much military expenditure could be cut without jeopardising national security. In December 1921 he holidayed in the south of France, where he began writing a book about his experiences during the First World War. In September 1922 his fifth child, Mary, was born, and that month he purchased a new house, Chartwell, in Kent. In October 1922 Churchill underwent an operation for appendicitis. While this was occurring, the Conservatives withdrew from Lloyd George's coalition government, precipitating the November 1922 general election, in which Churchill lost his Dundee seat to prohibitionist Edwin Scrymgeour, coming fourth in terms of vote share.
Churchill spent the next six months largely at the Villa Rêve d'Or near Cannes, where he devoted himself to painting and writing his memoirs. He produced a five-volume series of books about the war, its build-up, and its aftermath, titled The World Crisis; the first volume appeared in April 1923 and the others over the course of ten years. After a 1923 general election election was called, seven Liberal associations asked Churchill to stand as their candidate, and he selected that at Leicester West. He did not win the seat. A Labour government led by Ramsay MacDonald took power, although Churchill had hoped they would be kept out of office by a coalition of the Conservatives and Liberals. He strongly opposed the MacDonald government's decision to loan money to Soviet Russia and feared the signing of an Anglo-Soviet Treaty.
In 1924, Churchill stood as an independent candidate in the Westminster Abbey by-election but was defeated. In May he then addressed a Conservative meeting in Liverpool—the first time he had spoken to a Conservative group for twenty years—in which he declared that there was no longer a place for the Liberal Party in British politics and that Liberals must therefore back the Conservatives to stop Labour and ensure "the successful defeat of Socialism". In July, he agreed with Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin that he would be selected as the Conservative candidate for a seat—in September he was chosen for Epping—but that he did not have to stand under the Conservative banner, instead describing himself as a "Constitutionalist". The general election occurred in October, with Churchill winning in Epping. The Conservatives were victorious, with Baldwin forming the new government. Although Churchill had no background in finance or economics, Baldwin appointed him as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer on 6 November 1924, Churchill moved into 11 Downing Street and formally rejoined the Conservative Party. He intended to pursue "the same sort of measures" as under the Liberal social reforms. In January 1925, he negotiated a series of war repayments, both from the UK to the US, and from other countries to the UK. The Bank of England and others were calling for the UK to return to the gold standard, an idea Churchill initially opposed. He consulted various economists, the majority of whom endorsed the change; among the few who opposed it was John Maynard Keynes. Churchill ultimately relented and agreed to the measure, after which he became its supporter.
In April 1925, he announced the return to the gold standard in his first budget which included measures to reduce the pension age from 70 to 65; for widows to begin receiving their pension as soon as their husband died; and a ten percent decrease in income tax for the lowest earners which he hoped would stimulate small businesses. As a counter-measure, Churchill called for a reduction in naval expenditure, arguing that it was not needed in peacetime. Later, he convinced the government to introduce a subsidy for the mining industry to prevent reduction of wages in response to lower income. His second budget, announced in April 1926, included taxes on petrol, heavy lorries and luxury car purchase.
During the General Strike of 1926, Churchill edited the British Gazette, the government's anti-strike propaganda newspaper. After the strike ended, he acted as an intermediary between the striking miners and the mine owners. He proposed that any lowering of wages should be paralleled by a reduction in the owners' profits but no compromise could be reached and Churchill became an advocate of the miners' calls for the introduction of a legally binding minimum wage.
In early 1927, Churchill travelled through Europe, visiting Malta, Athens, Rome, and Paris. In Athens, he praised the restoration of parliamentary democracy; in Rome, he met Mussolini whom he praised for his stand against Leninism. In April, Churchill announced his third budget including new taxes on imported car tyres and wines, and increased taxation on matches and tobacco. Later, he proposed abolition of local rates to relieve taxation on British industry and agriculture; eventually, after Cabinet criticism, he agreed to a two-thirds reduction and the scheme was included in his April 1928 budget. In April 1929, he presented his fifth and final budget including abolition of duty on tea.
In the 1929 general election, Churchill retained his Epping seat but the Conservatives were defeated and MacDonald formed his second Labour government. Out of office, Churchill began work on Marlborough: His Life and Times, a four-volume biography of his ancestor John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Hoping that the Labour government could be ousted, he gained Baldwin's approval to work towards establishing a Conservative-Liberal coalition, although many Liberals were reticent. In August he travelled to Canada with his brother and son, giving speeches in Ottawa and Toronto, before travelling through the United States. In San Francisco he met with William Randolph Hearst, who convinced Churchill to write for his newspapers; in Hollywood he dined with the film star Charlie Chaplin. From there he travelled through the Mojave Desert to the Grand Canyon and then to Chicago and finally New York City.
Back in London, Churchill was angered by the Labour government's decision—backed by the Conservative Shadow Cabinet—to grant Dominion status to India. He argued that giving India enhanced levels of home rule would hasten calls for full independence from the British Empire. In December 1930 he was the main speaker at the first public meeting of the Indian Empire Society, set up to oppose the granting of Dominion status. In his view, India was not ready for home rule. He believed that the Hindu Brahmin caste would gain control and further oppress both the "untouchables" and the religious minorities. When riots between Hindus and Muslims broke out in Cawnpore in March 1931, he cited it in support of his argument.
Churchill called for swift action against any Indian independence activists engaged in illegal activity. He wanted the Indian National Congress party to be disbanded and its leaders deported. In 1930, he stated that "Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for will have to be grappled with and crushed". He thought it "alarming and nauseating" that the Viceroy of India agreed to meet with independence activist Mohandas Gandhi, whom Churchill considered "a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir". These views enraged Labour and Liberal opinion although were supported by many grassroot Conservatives. Angered that Baldwin was supporting the reform, Churchill resigned from the Shadow Cabinet.
In October 1930, Churchill published his autobiography, My Early Life, which sold well and was translated into multiple languages. The October 1931 general election was a landslide victory for the Conservatives Churchill nearly doubled his majority in Epping, but he was not given a ministerial position. The following month saw the publication of The Eastern Front, the final volume of The World Crisis. The Commons debated Dominion Status for India on 3 December and Churchill insisted on dividing the House. This backfired as only 43 MPs supported him and 369 voted for the government.
At this time, however, Churchill's main interest was in recovering financial losses (about £12,000) he had sustained in the Wall Street Crash and he embarked on a potentially lucrative lecture tour of North America, accompanied by Clementine and Diana. They arrived in New York City on 11 December and Churchill gave his first lecture in Worcester, Massachusetts, the following night. On 13 December, he was back in New York and travelled by cab to meet his friend Bernard Baruch. Having left the cab, he was crossing Fifth Avenue when he was knocked down by a car that was exceeding the speed limit. He suffered a head wound, two cracked ribs and general bruising from which he developed neuritis. He was hospitalised for eight days and then began a period of convalescence at his hotel until New Year's Eve. While he was there he sent an article about his experience to the Daily Mail and afterwards received thousands of letters and telegrams from well-wishers. To further his convalescence, he and Clementine took ship to Nassau for three weeks but Churchill became depressed there, not just about the accident but also about his financial and political losses. Meanwhile, the lecture agency managed to reschedule many of his engagements and, on returning to America in late January, he was able to fulfil nineteen of them until 11 March, though he remained mostly in the north-east and did not go further west than Chicago. He arrived back home on 18 March.
Having worked on Marlborough for much of 1932, Churchill in late August decided to visit the battlefields of "John Duke" (Churchill's pet name for him) in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. He travelled with Lindemann. In Munich, he met Ernst Hanfstaengl, a friend of Hitler, who was then rising in prominence. Talking to Hanfstaengl, Churchill raised concerns about Hitler's anti-Semitism and, probably because of that, missed the opportunity to meet his future enemy. Churchill went from Munich to Blenheim. Soon afterwards, he was afflicted with paratyphoid fever. He was taken over the border into Austria and spent two weeks at a sanatorium in Salzburg. He returned to Chartwell on 25 September, still working on Marlborough. Two days later, he collapsed while walking in the grounds after a recurrence of paratyphoid which caused an ulcer to haemorrhage. He was taken to a London nursing home and remained there until late October, missing the Conservative Party Conference.
While Churchill was in Salzburg, the German Chancellor Franz von Papen requested that the other Western powers accept Germany's right to re-arm, something they had been forbidden from doing by the Treaty of Versailles. Foreign Secretary John Simon, rejected the request and affirmed that Germany was still bound by the treaty's disarmament clauses. Churchill later supported Simon as he believed that a re-armed Germany would soon pursue the re-conquest of territories lost in the previous conflict.
After Hitler came to power on 30 January 1933, Churchill was quick to recognise the menace to civilisation of such a regime. As early as 13 April that year, he addressed the Commons on the matter, speaking of "odious conditions in Germany" and the threat of "another persecution and pogrom of Jews" being extended to other countries, including Poland. On the issue of militarism, Churchill expressed alarm that the British government had reduced air force spending and warned that Germany would soon overtake Britain in air force production.
Between October 1933 and September 1938, the four volumes of Churchill's Marlborough: His Life and Times were published. In November 1934, he gave a radio broadcast in which he warned of Nazi intentions and called on Britain to prepare itself for conflict. This was the first time that his concerns about German militarism were heard by such a large audience. In December, the India Bill entered parliament and was passed in February 1935. Churchill and 83 other Conservative MPs voted against it. He continued to express misgivings but did message Gandhi, saying: "You have got the thing now; make it a success and if you do I will advocate your getting much more". In June 1935, MacDonald resigned and was replaced as prime minister by Baldwin. Baldwin then led the Conservatives to victory in the 1935 general election; Churchill retained his seat with an increased majority but was again left out of the government.
Armed with official data provided clandestinely by two senior civil servants, Desmond Morton and Ralph Wigram, Churchill was able to speak with authority about what was happening in Germany, especially the development of the Luftwaffe. He had some involvement with a group called the Anti-Nazi Council, despite its being primarily leftist in political outlook, and called for improved training of troops and airmen. He also warned that industry must prepare for wartime production.
Churchill regarded Mussolini's regime as a bulwark against the perceived threat of communist revolution. However, he stressed that the UK must stick with its tradition of Parliamentary democracy, not adopt fascism, and opposed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Churchill condoned the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. In contemporary newspaper articles about the Spanish Civil War he referred to the Spanish Republican government as a communist front, and Franco's army as the "Anti-red movement."
In January 1936, Edward VIII succeeded his father, George V, as monarch. Churchill liked Edward but disapproved of his desire to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Marrying Simpson would necessitate Edward's abdication and a constitutional crisis developed. Churchill was opposed to abdication and, in the House of Commons, he and Baldwin clashed on the issue. Afterwards, although Churchill immediately pledged loyalty to George VI, he wrote that the abdication was "premature and probably quite unnecessary".
In May 1937, Baldwin resigned and was succeeded as prime minister by Neville Chamberlain. At first, Churchill welcomed Chamberlain's appointment but, in February 1938, matters came to a head after Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden resigned over Chamberlain's appeasement of Mussolini, a policy which Chamberlain was extending towards Hitler.
Meanwhile, Churchill had continued writing fortnightly articles for the Evening Standard, and these were reprinted in various newspapers across Europe through the efforts of Emery Reves' Paris-based press service. In September 1937, Churchill wrote an Evening Standard piece in which he directly appealed to Hitler, asking the latter to cease his persecution of Jews and religious organisations. The following month, a selection of his articles were published in a collected volume called Great Contemporaries.
In 1938, Churchill warned the government against appeasement and called for collective action to deter German aggression. In March, the Evening Standard ceased publication of his fortnightly articles, but the Daily Telegraph published them instead. Following the German annexation of Austria, Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, declaring that "the gravity of the events[…] cannot be exaggerated". He began calling for a mutual defence pact among European states threatened by German expansionism, arguing that this was the only way to halt Hitler. This was to no avail as, in September, Germany mobilised to invade the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Churchill visited Chamberlain at Downing Street and urged him to tell Germany that Britain would declare war if the Germans invaded Czechoslovak territory; Chamberlain was not willing to do this. On 30 September, Chamberlain signed up to the Munich Agreement, agreeing to allow German annexation of the Sudetenland. Speaking in the House of Commons on 5 October, Churchill called the agreement "a total and unmitigated defeat".
On 3 September 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany following the outbreak of the Second World War, Chamberlain appointed Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty, the same position he had held at the beginning of the First World War. As such he was a member of Chamberlain's war cabinet. Churchill later claimed that, on learning of his appointment, the Board of the Admiralty sent a signal to the Fleet: "Winston is back". Although this story was repeated by Lord Mountbatten in a speech at Edmonton in 1966, Richard Langworth notes that neither he nor Churchill's official biographer Martin Gilbert have found contemporary evidence to confirm it, suggesting that it may well be a later invention.
As First Lord, Churchill proved to be one of the highest-profile ministers during the so-called "Phoney War", when the only significant action by British forces was at sea. Churchill was ebullient after the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939 and afterwards welcomed home the crews, congratulating them on "a brilliant sea fight" and saying that their actions in a cold, dark winter had "warmed the cockles of the British heart". On 16 February 1940, Churchill personally ordered Captain Philip Vian of the destroyer HMS Cossack to board the German supply ship Altmark in Norwegian waters and liberate some 300 British prisoners who had been captured by the Admiral Graf Spee. These actions, supplemented by his speeches, considerably enhanced Churchill's reputation.
He was concerned about German naval activity in the Baltic Sea and initially wanted to send a naval force there but this was soon changed to a plan, codenamed Operation Wilfred, to mine Norwegian waters and stop iron ore shipments from Narvik to Germany. There were disagreements about mining, both in the war cabinet and with the French government. As a result, Wilfred was delayed until 8 April 1940, the day before the German invasion of Norway was launched.
After the Allies failed to prevent the German occupation of Norway, the Commons held an open debate from 7 to 9 May on the government's conduct of the war. This has come to be known as the Norway Debate and is renowned as one of the most significant events in parliamentary history. On the second day (Wednesday, 8 May), the Labour opposition called for a division which was in effect a vote of no confidence in Chamberlain's government. There was considerable support for Churchill on both sides of the House but, as a member of the government, he was obliged to speak on its behalf. He was called upon to wind up the debate, which placed him in the difficult position of having to defend the government without damaging his own prestige. Although the government won the vote, its majority was drastically reduced amid calls for a national government to be formed.
In the early hours of 10 May, German forces invaded Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands as a prelude to their assault on France. Since the division vote, Chamberlain had been trying to form a coalition but Labour declared on the Friday afternoon that they would not serve under his leadership, although they would accept another Conservative. The only two candidates were Churchill and Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary. The matter had already been discussed at a meeting on the 9th between Chamberlain, Halifax, Churchill, and David Margesson, the government Chief Whip. Halifax admitted that he could not govern effectively as a member of the House of Lords and so Chamberlain advised the King to send for Churchill, who became prime minister. His first act was to write to Chamberlain and thank him for his support.
Churchill later wrote of feeling a profound sense of relief in that he now had authority over the whole scene. He believed himself to be walking with destiny and that his life so far had been "a preparation for this hour and for this trial".
In May, Churchill was still unpopular with many Conservatives, with probably the majority of the Labour Party, and with the so-called Establishment – Jenkins says his accession to the premiership was "at best the equivalent of an abrupt wartime marriage". He probably could not have won a majority in any of the political parties in the House of Commons, and the House of Lords was completely silent when it learned of his appointment. Chamberlain remained Conservative Party leader until October when ill health forced his resignation – he died of cancer in November. By that time, Churchill had won the doubters over and his succession as party leader was a formality. Ralph Ingersoll reported in November: "Everywhere I went in London people admired [Churchill's] energy, his courage, his singleness of purpose. People said they didn't know what Britain would do without him. He was obviously respected. But no one felt he would be Prime Minister after the war. He was simply the right man in the right job at the right time. The time being the time of a desperate war with Britain's enemies".
Churchill began his premiership by forming a five-man war cabinet which included Chamberlain as Lord President of the Council, Labour leader Clement Attlee as Lord Privy Seal (later as Deputy Prime Minister), Halifax as Foreign Secretary and Labour's Arthur Greenwood as a minister without portfolio. In practice, these five were augmented by the service chiefs and ministers who attended the majority of meetings. The cabinet changed in size and membership as the war progressed. By the end of 1940, it had increased to eight after Churchill, Attlee and Greenwood were joined by Ernest Bevin as Minister of Labour and National Service; Anthony Eden as Foreign Secretary – replacing Halifax, who was sent to Washington D.C. as ambassador to the United States; Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of Aircraft Production; Sir Kingsley Wood as Chancellor of the Exchequer; and Sir John Anderson as Lord President of the Council – replacing Chamberlain who died in November (Anderson later became Chancellor after Kingsley Wood's death in September 1943). Jenkins described this combination as a "war cabinet for winning", contrasting it with Chamberlain's "war cabinet for losing". In response to previous criticisms that there had been no clear single minister in charge of the prosecution of the war, Churchill created and took the additional position of Minister of Defence, making him the most powerful wartime prime minister in British history.
Churchill wanted people he knew and trusted to take part in government. Among these were personal friends like Beaverbrook and Frederick Lindemann, who became the government's scientific advisor. Lindemann was one of several outside experts drafted in and these "technocrats" fulfilled vital functions, especially on the Home Front. Churchill would proudly proclaim that his government, in the interests of national unity, was the most broadly based in British political history as it spanned far right to far left by including such figures as Lord Lloyd on the right and Ellen Wilkinson on the left.
At the end of May, with the British Expeditionary Force in retreat to Dunkirk and the Fall of France seemingly imminent, Halifax proposed that the government should explore the possibility of a negotiated peace settlement using Mussolini as an intermediary given that Italy was still neutral. There were several high-level meetings from 26 to 28 May, including two with the French premier Paul Reynaud. Churchill's resolve was to fight on, even if France capitulated, but his position remained precarious until Chamberlain resolved to support him. Churchill had the full support of the two Labour members but knew he could not survive as prime minister if both Chamberlain and Halifax were against him. In the end, by gaining the support of his outer cabinet, Churchill outmanoeuvred Halifax and won Chamberlain over. The essence of Churchill's argument was that, as he said, "it was idle to think that, if we tried to make peace now, we should get better terms than if we fought it out". He therefore concluded that the only option was to fight on though, at times, he personally was pessimistic about the chances of a British victory, as on 12 June 1940 when he told General Hastings Ismay that "[y]ou and I will be dead in three months' time". Nonetheless, his use of rhetoric hardened public opinion against a peaceful resolution and prepared the British people for a long war – Jenkins says Churchill's speeches were "an inspiration for the nation, and a catharsis for Churchill himself".
As Jenkins said, Churchill's wartime speeches were a great inspiration to the embattled British, beginning with his first as prime minister, which he had delivered to the Commons on 13 May: the "blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech. It was not well received at the time, mainly because the majority of Conservative MPs held doubts about Churchill's suitability to be premier. It was in fact little more than a short statement but, Jenkins says, "it included phrases which have reverberated down the decades". Churchill made it plain to the nation that a long, hard road lay ahead and that victory was the final goal:
I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government, that I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: it is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say: Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.
Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of 338,226 Allied servicemen from Dunkirk, ended on Tuesday, 4 June when the French rearguard surrendered. The total was far in excess of expectations and it gave rise to a popular view that Dunkirk had been a miracle, and even a victory. Churchill himself referred to "a miracle of deliverance" in his "we shall fight on the beaches" speech to the Commons that afternoon, though he shortly reminded everyone that: "We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations". The speech ended on a note of defiance coupled with a clear appeal to the United States:
We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
Germany initiated Fall Rot the following day and Italy entered the war on the 10th. The Wehrmacht occupied Paris on the 14th and completed their conquest of France on 25 June. It was now inevitable that Hitler would attack and probably try to invade Great Britain. Faced with this, Churchill addressed the Commons on 18 June and delivered one of his most famous speeches, ending with this peroration:
What General Weygand called the "Battle of France" is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him all Europe may be free, and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands; but if we fail then the whole world, including the United States, and all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more prolonged, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say: "This was their finest hour".
Churchill was determined to fight back and ordered the commencement of the Western Desert campaign on 11 June, an immediate response to the Italian declaration of war. This went well at first while the Italian army was the sole opposition and Operation Compass was a noted success. In early 1941, however, Mussolini requested German support and Hitler sent the Afrika Korps to Tripoli under the command of Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel, who arrived not long after Churchill had halted Compass so that he could reassign forces to Greece where the Balkans campaign was entering a critical phase.
In other initiatives through June and July 1940, Churchill ordered the formation of both the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Commandos. The SOE was ordered to promote and execute subversive activity in Nazi-occupied Europe while the Commandos were charged with raids on specific military targets there. Hugh Dalton, the Minister of Economic Warfare, took political responsibility for the SOE and recorded in his diary that Churchill told him: "And now go and set Europe ablaze".
On 20 August 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Churchill addressed the Commons to outline the war situation. In the middle of this speech, he made a statement that created a famous nickname for the RAF fighter pilots involved in the battle:
The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
The Luftwaffe altered its strategy from 7 September 1940 and began to bomb London, at first in daylight raids and then, after their losses became unacceptably high, at night. The raids were soon extended to provincial cities such as the notorious attack on Coventry on 14 November. The Blitz was especially intensive through October and November. It can be said to have continued for eight months, by which time Hitler was ready to launch Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR. The Luftwaffe failed its objective of reducing British war production, which actually increased.
Churchill used to watch air raids from the Whitehall rooftops and was all for intensive anti-aircraft barrages, regardless of whether anything was being hit or not. He was totally opposed to proposals that the seat of government should be removed to Worcestershire and made extensive use of the Cabinet War Rooms below the Treasury building. His morale during the Blitz was generally high and he told his private secretary John Colville in November that he thought the threat of invasion was past. He was confident that Great Britain could hold its own, given the increase in output, but was realistic about its chances of actually winning the war without American intervention.
In September 1940, the British and American governments concluded the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, by which fifty American destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy in exchange for free US base rights in Bermuda, the Caribbean and Newfoundland. An added advantage for Britain was that its military assets in those bases could be redeployed elsewhere.
Churchill's good relations with United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped secure vital food, oil and munitions via the North Atlantic shipping routes. It was for this reason that Churchill was relieved when Roosevelt was re-elected in 1940. Upon re-election, Roosevelt set about implementing a new method of providing necessities to Great Britain without the need for monetary payment. He persuaded Congress that repayment for this immensely costly service would take the form of defending the US. The policy was known as Lend-Lease and it was formally enacted on 11 March 1941.
Hitler launched his invasion of the Soviet Union on Sunday, 22 June 1941. It was no surprise to Churchill who had known since early April, from Enigma decrypts at Bletchley Park, that the attack was imminent. He had tried to warn General Secretary Joseph Stalin via the British ambassador to Moscow, Stafford Cripps, but to no avail as Stalin did not trust Churchill. The night before the attack, already intending an address to the nation, Churchill alluded to his hitherto anti-communist views by saying to Colville: "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil".
In August 1941, Churchill made his first transatlantic crossing of the war on board HMS Prince of Wales and met Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. On 14 August, they issued the joint statement that has become known as the Atlantic Charter. This outlined the goals of both countries for the future of the world and it is seen as the inspiration for the 1942 Declaration by United Nations, itself the basis of the United Nations which was founded in June 1945.
On 7–8 December 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was followed by their invasion of Malaya and, on the 8th, Churchill declared war on Japan. Three days later came the joint declaration of war by Germany and Italy against the United States. Churchill went to Washington later in the month to meet Roosevelt for the first Washington Conference (codename Arcadia). This was important for "Europe First", the decision to prioritise victory in Europe over victory in the Pacific, taken by Roosevelt while Churchill was still in mid-Atlantic. The Americans agreed with Churchill that Hitler was the main enemy and that the defeat of Germany was key to Allied success. It was also agreed that the first joint Anglo-American strike would be Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa (i.e., Algeria and Morocco). Originally planned for the spring of 1942, it was finally launched in November 1942 when the crucial Second Battle of El Alamein was already underway.
On 26 December, Churchill addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress. While he was well-received, he was concerned that his anti-Japanese rhetoric met with greater enthusiasm than his anti-German statements. That night, Churchill suffered a mild heart attack which was diagnosed by his physician, Lord Moran, as a coronary deficiency needing several weeks' bed rest. Churchill insisted that he did not need bed rest and, two days later, journeyed on to Ottawa by train where he gave a speech to the Canadian Parliament that included the "some chicken, some neck" line in which he recalled French predictions in 1940 that "Britain alone would have her neck wrung like a chicken". Churchill arrived home in mid-January, having flown from Bermuda to Plymouth in an American flying boat, and soon found that there was a crisis of confidence in both his coalition government and himself personally.
While he was away, the Eighth Army, having already relieved the Siege of Tobruk, had pursued Operation Crusader against Rommel's forces in Libya, successfully driving them back to a defensive position at El Agheila in Cyrenaica. On 21 January 1942, however, Rommel launched a surprise counter-attack which drove the Allies back to Gazala. Meanwhile, recent British success in the Battle of the Atlantic was compromised by the Kriegsmarine's introduction of its M4 4-rotor Enigma, whose signals could not be decyphered by Bletchley Park for nearly a year. In the Far East, the news was much worse with Japanese advances in all theatres, especially at sea and in Malaya. At a press conference in Washington, Churchill had to play down his increasing doubts about the security of Singapore.
Churchill on his return from America was aware of parliamentary and public criticism because, after nearly two years of his premiership, the end of the war was nowhere in sight. He decided to insist upon a full three-day Commons debate, through 27–29 January, on a vote of confidence. He opened on a note of some resentment:
Since my return to this country, I have come to the conclusion that I must ask to be sustained by a vote of confidence from the House of Commons. This is a thoroughly normal, constitutional, democratic procedure. Could you have anything freer than that? Could you have any higher expression of democracy than that? Very few other countries have institutions strong enough to sustain such a thing while they are fighting for their lives. No one need be mealy-mouthed in debate, and no one should be chicken-hearted in voting.
Despite his concerns, he won easily enough with 464 votes in his favour and only one against, in a House of 640. Many MPs were unavailable for war service reasons. Churchill's gloom persisted, though, and he faced another problem when Sir Stafford Cripps returned from Moscow, where he had been British ambassador since May 1940. On the evening of Sunday, 8 February, Cripps broadcast to the nation about the Soviet war effort and compared it to the perceived "lack of urgency" in Britain where the population were almost "spectators rather than participants". This happened soon after a blazing row between Bevin and Beaverbrook which undermined the war cabinet. The latter had just become Minister of War Production but, on 19 February and citing a "nervous breakdown", he resigned from the government. He was replaced in early March by Oliver Lyttelton and the job was retitled Minister of Production. Churchill was concerned about Cripps' obvious public popularity and, sensing a challenge to his premiership, realised that he needed Cripps in the government. On 15 February, he appointed Cripps as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal. Attlee stepped up to become both Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs.
Through the spring of 1942, Churchill's spirits rose as things settled down in cabinet and there was no especially bad news, although still a lack of triumph. He welcomed US emissaries Harry Hopkins and General George Marshall in April. They had been sent by Roosevelt to discuss the feasibility of a cross-Channel invasion, as Roosevelt was keen to take pressure off the Soviets who were still on the back foot. At this time, 1942 was practically impossible and it was hoped to open a Channel front in 1943. The Americans were focused on Europe and Churchill raised his concerns about the possible losses of both India and Egypt, but the Americans were not concerned about India. Operation Torch was still on the agenda as regards North Africa.
Churchill already had grave concerns about the fighting quality of British troops after the defeats in Norway, France, Greece and Crete. Following the fall of Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, he felt that his misgivings were confirmed and said: "(this is) the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British military history". More bad news had come on 11 February as the Kriegsmarine pulled off its audacious "Channel Dash", a massive blow to British naval prestige. The combined effect of these events was to sink Churchill's morale to its lowest point of the whole war.
Japanese operations in Burma had begun in December 1941. Rangoon fell in March 1942 and the Japanese advance gathered pace until they had occupied most of the country by the end of April. Campaigning was effectively halted through the May to December monsoon season and then the Allies mounted the first of several offensives from India. Efforts were hampered by disordered conditions in Bengal and Bihar, not least the severe cyclone which devastated the region in October 1942 and, with vital rice imports from Burma curtailed by the Japanese, led ultimately to the Bengal famine of 1943. The situation in Bengal was exacerbated by a Japanese air offensive which prevented the RAF from launching an airlift. It has been alleged that Churchill's government was wrong in its prioritisation of food exports to other theatres of war and its stockpiling of resources in Great Britain, but those policies were pursued because Churchill's main concern was fighting a war for survival. This, however, is an area of great dispute as the contrary is shown in the CAB 65 Second World War conclusions, which reveal that food exports (except those already in motion) were cancelled or diverted at the request of the Secretary of State for India, the Minister of War Transport, and the Minister of Food amongst others. These now cancelled food exports were consequently used as famine relief. Churchill nevertheless did push for whatever famine relief efforts that India itself could provide given the unlikely success of outside aid, these internal efforts hidebound by corruption and inefficiency which featured heavily in the Bengali government at that time. Churchill responded by appointing Earl Wavell as Viceroy on 1 October 1943 and ordering the military under Wavell's direction to transport aid into Bengal. The combination of relief transports and a successfully harvested winter rice crop eased the famine in December 1943, but the death toll by then was over three million.
On 20 May, the Soviet Foreign Affairs minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, arrived in London and stayed until the 28th before going on to Washington. The purpose of this visit was to sign a treaty of friendship but Molotov wanted it done on the basis of certain territorial concessions re Poland and the Baltic States. Churchill and Eden worked for a compromise and eventually a twenty-year treaty was formalised but with the question of frontiers placed on hold. Molotov was also seeking a Second Front in Europe but all Churchill could do was confirm that preparations were in progress and make no promises on a date.
Churchill felt well pleased with these negotiations and said as much when he contacted Roosevelt on the 27th. The previous day, however, Rommel had launched his counter-offensive, Operation Venice, to begin the Battle of Gazala. The Allies were ultimately driven out of Libya and suffered a major defeat in the loss of Tobruk on 21 June. Churchill was with Roosevelt when the news of Tobruk reached him. He was shocked by the surrender of 35,000 troops which was, apart from Singapore, "the heaviest blow" he received in the war. The Axis advance was eventually halted at the battles of El Alamein (first battle; July) and Alam el Halfa (early September). Both sides were exhausted and in urgent need of reinforcements and supplies.
Churchill had returned to Washington on 17 June. He and Roosevelt agreed on the implementation of Operation Torch as the necessary precursor to an invasion of Europe. Roosevelt had appointed General Dwight D. Eisenhower as commanding officer of the European Theater of Operations, United States Army (ETOUSA). Having received the news from North Africa, Churchill obtained shipment from America to the Eighth Army of 300 Sherman tanks and 100 howitzers. He returned to Britain on 25 June.
Churchill came back to another motion of no confidence, this time in the central direction of the war, which meant him personally and was a direct reaction to the fall of Tobruk. The petitioners were a cross-party spread. The debate was held 1–2 July and opened with the news that Rommel was only forty miles from Alexandria while, the previous week, the government had lost a bye-election to an independent candidate, the first of several in which Conservative majorities were overturned. Jenkins describes the rebel motion in Parliament as "a fiasco", its speakers not being co-ordinated. One of them, the seconder of the motion who was targeting the Chiefs of Staff, even declared that it would be a "deplorable disaster" if Churchill had to go. Even so, 25 votes were cast against Churchill, with 477 in favour, and he drew some comfort from being told that the government of William Pitt the Younger conceded 25 votes after a similar debate in 1799.
In August, despite health concerns, Churchill visited the British forces in North Africa, raising morale in the process, en route to Moscow for his first meeting with Stalin. He was accompanied by Roosevelt's special envoy Averell Harriman. He was in Moscow 12–16 August and had four lengthy meetings with Stalin. Although they got along quite well together on a personal level, there was little chance of any real progress given the state of the war with the Germans still advancing in all theatres. Stalin was desperate for the Allies to open the Second Front in Europe, as Churchill had discussed with Molotov in May, and the answer was the same.
While he was in Cairo in early August, Churchill decided to replace Field Marshal Auchinleck with Field Marshal Alexander as Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East Theatre. Command of the Eighth Army was given to General William Gott but he was killed only three days later and General Montgomery replaced him. Churchill returned to Cairo from Moscow on 17 August and could see for himself that the Alexander/Montgomery combination was already having an effect. He returned to England on the 21st, nine days before Rommel launched his final offensive.
As 1942 drew to a close, the tide of war began to turn with Allied victory in the key battles of El Alamein and Stalingrad. Until November, the Allies had always been on the defensive, but from November, the Germans were. Churchill ordered the church bells to be rung throughout Great Britain for the first time since early 1940. On 10 November, knowing that El Alamein was a victory, he delivered one of his most memorable war speeches to the Lord Mayor's Luncheon at the Mansion House in London, in response to the Allied victory at El Alamein:
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
El Alamein was fought 23 October to 11 November and was a resounding victory for the Eighth Army with Rommel's forces in full retreat. The Americans under Eisenhower had successfully completed Torch on 8 November and the Afrika Korps was now facing formidable opposition on two fronts. The conflict at Stalingrad lasted for over five months but the key date was 23 November when the Germans were encircled.
In January 1943, Churchill met Roosevelt at the Casablanca Conference (codename Symbol), which lasted ten days. It was also attended by General Charles de Gaulle on behalf of the Free French Forces. Stalin had hoped to attend but declined because of the situation at Stalingrad. Although Churchill expressed doubts on the matter, the so-called Casablanca Declaration committed the Allies to securing "unconditional surrender" by the Axis powers. From Morocco, Churchill went to Cairo, Adana, Cyprus, Cairo again and Algiers for various purposes. He arrived home on 7 February having been out for the country for nearly a month. He addressed the Commons on the 11th and then became seriously ill with pneumonia the following day, necessitating more than one month of rest, recuperation and convalescence – for the latter, he moved to Chequers. He returned to work in London on 15 March.
Churchill made two transatlantic crossings during the year, meeting Roosevelt at both the third Washington Conference (codename Trident) in May and the first Quebec Conference (codename Quadrant) in August. In November, Churchill and Roosevelt met Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek at the Cairo Conference (codename Sextant).
The most important conference of the year was soon afterwards (28 November to 1 December) at Tehran (codename Eureka), where Churchill and Roosevelt met Stalin in the first of the "Big Three" meetings, preceding those at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945. Roosevelt and Stalin co-operated in persuading Churchill to commit to the opening of a second front in western Europe and it was also agreed that Germany would be divided after the war, but no firm decisions were made about how. On their way back from Tehran, Churchill and Roosevelt held a second Cairo conference with Turkish president Ismet Inönü, but were unable to gain any commitment from Turkey to join the Allies.
Churchill went from Cairo to Tunis, arriving on 10 December, initially as Eisenhower's guest (soon afterwards, Eisenhower took over as Supreme Allied Commander of the new SHAEF just being created in London). While Churchill was in Tunis, he became seriously ill with atrial fibrillation and was forced to remain until after Christmas while a succession of specialists were drafted in to ensure his recovery. Clementine and Colville arrived to keep him company; Colville had just returned to Downing Street after more than two years in the RAF. On 27 December, the party went on to Marrakesh for convalescence. Feeling much better, Churchill flew to Gibraltar on 14 January 1944 and sailed home on the King George V. He was back in London on the morning of 18 January and surprised MPs by attending Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons that afternoon. Since 12 January 1943, when he set off for the Casablanca Conference, Churchill had been abroad and/or seriously ill for 203 of the 371 days.
In the autumn of 1942, after Churchill's meeting with Stalin in Moscow, he was approached by Eisenhower, commanding North African Theater of Operations (NATOUSA), and his aides on the subject of where the Western Allies should launch their first strike in Europe. According to General Mark Clark, who later commanded the United States Fifth Army in the Italian campaign, the Americans openly admitted that a cross-Channel operation in the near future was "utterly impossible". As an alternative, Churchill recommended "slit(ting) the soft belly of the Mediterranean" and persuaded them to invade first Sicily and then Italy after they had defeated the Afrika Korps in North Africa. After the war, Clark still agreed that Churchill's analysis was correct but he added that, when the Allies landed at Salerno, they found that Italy was "a tough old gut".
The invasion of Sicily began on 9 July and was successfully completed by 17 August. Churchill was then all for driving straight up the Italian mainland with Rome as the main target, but the Americans wanted to withdraw several divisions to England in the build-up of forces for Operation Overlord, now scheduled for the spring of 1944. Churchill was still not keen on Overlord as he feared that an Anglo-American army in France might not be a match for the fighting efficiency of the Wehrmacht. He preferred peripheral operations, including a plan called Operation Jupiter for an invasion of northern Norway. Events in Sicily had an unexpected impact in Italy. King Victor Emmanuel sacked Mussolini on 25 July and appointed Marshal Badoglio as prime minister. Badoglio opened negotiations with the Allies which resulted in the Armistice of Cassibile on 3 September. In response, the Germans activated Operation Achse and took control of most of Italy. Although he still preferred Italy to Normandy as the Allies' main route into the Third Reich, Churchill was deeply concerned about the strong German resistance at Salerno and, later, after the Allies successfully gained their bridgehead at Anzio but still failed to break the stalemate, he caustically said that instead of "hurling a wildcat onto the shore", the Allied force had become a "stranded whale". The big obstacle was Monte Cassino and it was not until mid-May 1944 when it was finally overcome, enabling the Allies to at last advance on Rome, which was taken on 4 June.
The difficulties in Italy caused Churchill to have a change of heart and mind about Allied strategy to the extent that, when the Anzio stalemate developed soon after his return to England from North Africa, he threw himself into the planning of Overlord and set up an ongoing series of meetings with SHAEF and the British Chiefs of Staff over which he regularly presided. These were always attended by either Eisenhower or his chief of staff General Walter Bedell Smith. Churchill was especially taken by the Mulberry project but he was also keen to make the most of Allied air power which, by the beginning of 1944, had become overwhelming. Churchill never fully lost his apprehension about the invasion, however, and underwent great fluctuation of mood as D-Day approached. Jenkins says that he faced potential victory with much less buoyancy than when he defiantly faced the prospect of defeat four years earlier.
Churchill could not ignore the need for post-war reforms covering a broad sweep of areas such as agriculture, education, employment, health, housing and welfare. The Beveridge Report with its five "Giant Evils" was published in November 1942 and assumed great importance amid widespread popular acclaim. Even so, Churchill was not really interested because he was focused on winning the war and saw reform in terms of tidying up afterwards. His attitude was demonstrated in a Sunday evening radio broadcast on 26 March 1944. He was obliged to devote most of it to the subject of reform and showed a distinct lack of interest. In their respective diaries, Colville said Churchill had broadcast "indifferently" and Harold Nicolson said that, to many people, Churchill came across the air as "a worn and petulant old man".
In the end, however, it was the population's demand for reform that decided the 1945 general election. Labour was perceived as the party that would deliver Beveridge. Arthur Greenwood had initiated its preceding social insurance and allied services inquiry in June 1941. Attlee, Bevin and Labour's other coalition ministers through the war were seen to be working towards reform and earned the trust of the electorate.
Churchill was determined to be actively involved in the Normandy invasion and hoped to cross the Channel on D-Day itself (6 June 1944) or at least on D-Day+1. His desire caused unnecessary consternation at SHAEF until he was effectively vetoed by the King who told Churchill that, as head of all three services, he (the King) ought to go too. Churchill expected an Allied death toll of 20,000 on D-Day but he was proved to be pessimistic because less than 8,000 died in the whole of June. He made his first visit to Normandy on 12 June to visit Montgomery, whose HQ was then about five miles inland. That evening, as he was returning to London, the first V-1 flying bombs were launched. In a longer visit to Normandy on 22–23 July, Churchill went to Cherbourg and Arromanches where he saw the Mulberry Harbour.
Churchill met Roosevelt at the Second Quebec Conference (codename Octagon) from 12 to 16 September 1944. Between themselves, they reached agreement on the Morgenthau Plan for the Allied occupation of Germany after the war, the intention of which was not only to demilitarise but also de-industrialise Germany. Eden strongly opposed it and was later able to persuade Churchill to disown it. US Secretary of State Cordell Hull also opposed it and convinced Roosevelt that it was infeasible.
At the fourth Moscow conference (codename Tolstoy) from 9 to 19 October 1944, Churchill and Eden met Stalin and Molotov. This conference has gained notoriety for the so-called "Percentages agreement" in which Churchill and Stalin effectively agreed the post-war fate of the Balkans. By that time, the Soviet armies were in Rumania and Bulgaria. Churchill suggested a scale of predominance throughout the whole region so as not to, as he put it, "get at cross-purposes in small ways". He wrote down some suggested percentages of influence per country and gave it to Stalin who ticked it. The agreement was that Russia would have 90% control of Romania and 75% control of Bulgaria. The UK and the USA would have 90% control of Greece. Hungary and Yugoslavia would be 50% each. In 1958, five years after the account of this meeting was published (in Churchill's The Second World War), Soviet authorities denied that Stalin had accepted such an "imperialist proposal".
From 30 January to 2 February 1945, Churchill and Roosevelt met for their Malta Conference ahead of the second "Big Three" event at Yalta from 4 to 11 February. Yalta had massive implications for the post-war world. There were two predominant issues: the question of setting up the United Nations Organisation after the war, on which much progress was made; and the more vexed question of Poland's post-war status, which Churchill saw as a test case for the future of Eastern Europe. Churchill faced some strong criticism for the Yalta agreement on Poland. For example, 27 Tory MPs voted against him when the matter was debated in the Commons at the end of the month. Jenkins, however, maintains that Churchill did as well as he could have done in very difficult circumstances, not least the fact that Roosevelt was seriously ill and could not provide Churchill with meaningful support.
Another outcome of Yalta was the so-called Operation Keelhaul. The Western Allies agreed to the forcible repatriation of all Soviet citizens in the Allied zones, including prisoners of war, to the Soviet Union and the policy was later extended to all Eastern European refugees, many of whom were anti-Communist. Keelhaul was implemented between 14 August 1946 and 9 May 1947.
On the nights of 13–15 February 1945, some 1,200 British and US bombers attacked the German city of Dresden, which was crowded with wounded and refugees from the Eastern Front. The attacks were part of an area bombing campaign that was initiated by Churchill in January with the intention of shortening the war. Churchill came to regret the bombing because initial reports suggested an excessive number of civilian casualties close to the end of the war, though an independent commission in 2010 confirmed a death toll between 22,700 and 25,000. On 28 March, he decided to restrict area bombing and sent a memorandum to General Ismay for the Chiefs of Staff Committee:
The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing..... I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives..... rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive.
British historian Frederick Taylor has pointed out that the number of Soviet citizens who died from German bombing was roughly equivalent to the number of German citizens who died from Allied raids. Jenkins asks if Churchill was moved more by foreboding than by regret but admits it is easy to criticise with the hindsight of victory. He adds that the area bombing campaign was no more reprehensible than President Truman's use of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki six months later. Andrew Marr, quoting Max Hastings, says that Churchill's memorandum was a "calculated political attempt..... to distance himself..... from the rising controversy surrounding the area offensive".
On 7 May 1945 at the SHAEF headquarters in Reims the Allies accepted Germany's surrender. The next day was Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) when Churchill broadcast to the nation that Germany had surrendered and that a final ceasefire on all fronts in Europe would come into effect at one minute past midnight that night (i.e., on the 9th). Afterwards, Churchill went to Buckingham Palace where he appeared on the balcony with the Royal Family before a huge crowd of celebrating citizens. He went from the palace to Whitehall where he addressed another large crowd:
God bless you all. This is your victory. In our long history, we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best.
At this point he asked Ernest Bevin to come forward and share the applause. Bevin said: "No, Winston, this is your day", and proceeded to conduct the people in the singing of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow. In the evening, Churchill made another broadcast to the nation asserting that the defeat of Japan would follow in the coming months (the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945).
The post-war displacement of Poles and ethnic Germans from central and eastern Europe was agreed by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at the Tehran and Yalta conferences. The Polish transfers were among the largest of several post-war expulsions in which a total of about twenty million people were displaced. Churchill was opposed to the Soviet domination of Poland but was unable to prevent it at the conferences and had to accept the borders agreed by Roosevelt and Stalin: the Curzon line between Poland and the Soviet Union and the Oder-Neisse line between Germany and Poland. Nevertheless, he tried to motivate Stanisław Mikołajczyk, who was prime minister of the Polish government in exile, to accept Stalin's wishes on population transfer, but Mikołajczyk refused. Churchill was convinced that the only way to alleviate tensions between the populations was by the transfer of people to match the national borders. He supported Stalin's desire to expel ethnic Germans, as he told the Commons on 15 December 1944: "Expulsion is the method which, insofar as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting. There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble ... A clean sweep will be made. I am not alarmed by these transferences, which are more possible in modern conditions".
The idea to expel the ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia was also backed by Churchill. In 1942, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile received the support of the United Kingdom for the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia.
With a general election looming (there had been none for almost a decade), and with the Labour ministers refusing to continue the wartime coalition, Churchill resigned as prime minister on 23 May 1945. Later that day, he accepted the King's invitation to form a new government, known officially as the National Government, like the Conservative-dominated coalition of the 1930s, but in practice known as the Churchill caretaker ministry. The government contained Conservatives, National Liberals and a few non-party figures such as Sir John Anderson and Lord Woolton, but not Labour or Archibald Sinclair's Official Liberals. Although Churchill continued to carry out the functions of prime minister, including exchanging messages with the US administration about the upcoming Potsdam Conference, he was not formally reappointed until 28 May.
In April, General Charles de Gaulle, as head of the French Provisional Government, had ordered French forces to establish an air base in Syria and a naval base in Lebanon. This action provoked a nationalist outbreak in both countries and France responded with an armed intervention, leading to many civilian deaths. With the situation escalating out of control, Churchill intervened on 31 May and gave de Gaulle an ultimatum to desist. This was ignored and British forces from Transjordan were mobilised to restore order. The French, heavily outnumbered, had no option but to return to their bases. A diplomatic row broke out and Churchill reportedly told a colleague that de Gaulle was "a great danger to peace and for Great Britain".
Churchill was Great Britain's representative at the post-war Potsdam Conference when it opened on 17 July and was accompanied at its sessions not only by Eden as Foreign Secretary but also, pending the result of the July general election, by Attlee. They attended nine sessions in nine days before returning to England for their election counts. After the landslide Labour victory, Attlee returned with Bevin as the new Foreign Secretary and there were a further five days of discussion. Potsdam went badly for Churchill. Eden later described his performance as "appalling", saying that he was unprepared and verbose. Churchill upset the Chinese, exasperated the Americans and was easily led by Stalin, whom he was supposed to be resisting.
Churchill mishandled the election campaign by resorting to party politics and trying to denigrate Labour. On 4 June, he committed a serious political gaffe by saying in a radio broadcast that a Labour government would require "some form of Gestapo" to enforce its agenda. It backfired badly and Attlee made political capital by saying in his reply broadcast next day: "The voice we heard last night was that of Mr Churchill, but the mind was that of Lord Beaverbrook". Jenkins says that this broadcast was "the making of Attlee".
Although polling day was 5 July, the results of the election did not become known until 26 July, owing to the need to collect the votes of those serving overseas. Clementine and daughter Mary had been at the count in Woodford, Churchill's new constituency in Essex, and had returned to Downing Street to meet him for lunch. Churchill was unopposed by the major parties in Woodford, but his majority over a sole independent candidate was much less than expected. He now anticipated defeat by Labour and Mary later described the lunch as "an occasion of Stygian gloom". To Clementine's suggestion that election defeat might be "a blessing in disguise", Churchill retorted that "at the moment it seems very effectively disguised".
That afternoon Churchill's doctor Lord Moran (so he later recorded in his book The Struggle for Survival) commiserated with him on the "ingratitude" of the British public, to which Churchill replied: "I wouldn't call it that. They have had a very hard time". Having lost the election, despite enjoying much personal support amongst the British population, he resigned as prime minister that evening and was succeeded by Attlee who formed the first majority Labour government. Many reasons for Churchill's defeat have been given, key among them being that a desire for post-war reform was widespread amongst the population and that the man who had led Britain in war was not seen as the man to lead the nation in peace. Although the Conservative Party was unpopular, many electors appear to have wanted Churchill to continue as prime minister whatever the outcome, or to have wrongly believed that this would be possible.
At Churchill's resignation audience, the King offered him the Order of the Garter. Churchill refused and said it should be offered to Eden instead, but Eden also refused. They both, however, became Knights of the Garter in the 1950s. On the morning of 27 July, Churchill held a farewell Cabinet. On the way out of the Cabinet Room he told Eden: "Thirty years of my life have been passed in this room. I shall never sit in it again. You will, but I shall not" (Gilbert points out that up to this point he had in fact served for approximately 28.5 years as a cabinet minister).
Churchill continued to lead the Conservative Party and, for six years, served as Leader of the Opposition.
In 1946, Churchill was in America for nearly three months from early January to late March. It was on this trip that he gave his "Iron Curtain" speech about the USSR and its creation of the Eastern Bloc. Speaking on 5 March 1946 in the company of President Truman at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Churchill declared:
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.
The essence of his view was that, though the Soviet Union did not want war with the western Allies, its entrenched position in Eastern Europe had made it impossible for the three great powers to provide the world with a "triangular leadership". Churchill's desire was much closer collaboration between Britain and America. Within the same speech, he called for "a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States", but he emphasised the need for co-operation within the framework of the United Nations Charter.
The Conservatives won the general election in October 1951 with an overall majority of 17 seats and Churchill again became prime minister, remaining in office until his resignation on 5 April 1955. Eden, his eventual successor, was restored to Foreign Affairs, the portfolio with which Churchill was preoccupied throughout his tenure. Future prime minister Harold Macmillan was appointed Minister of Housing and Local Government with a manifesto commitment to build 300,000 new houses per annum, Churchill's only real domestic concern. He achieved the target and, in October 1954, was promoted to Minister of Defence.
Churchill was nearly 77 when he took office and was not in good health following several minor strokes. By December, George VI had become concerned about Churchill's decline and intended asking him to stand down in favour of Eden, but the King had his own serious health issues and died on 6 February without making the request. Churchill developed a close friendship with Elizabeth II. It was widely expected that he would retire after her Coronation in May 1953 but, after Eden became seriously ill, Churchill increased his own responsibilities by taking over at the Foreign Office. Eden was incapacitated until the end of the year and was never completely well again.
On the evening of 23 June 1953, Churchill suffered a serious stroke and became partially paralysed down one side. Had Eden been well, Churchill's premiership would most likely have been over. The matter was kept secret and Churchill went home to Chartwell to recuperate. He had fully recovered by November. He soldiered on through 1954 until, finally accepting his decline, he retired as prime minister in April 1955 and was succeeded by Eden.
Churchill feared a global conflagration and firmly believed that the only way to preserve peace and freedom was to build on a solid foundation of friendship and co-operation between Britain and America. He made four official transatlantic visits from January 1952 to July 1954.
He enjoyed a good relationship with Truman but difficulties arose over the planned European Defence Community (EDC), by which Truman hoped to reduce America's military presence in West Germany; Churchill was sceptical about the EDC. Churchill wanted US military support of British interests in Egypt and the Middle East, but that was refused. While Truman expected British military involvement in Korea, he viewed any US commitment to the Middle East as maintaining British imperialism. The Americans recognised that the British Empire was in terminal decline and had welcomed the Attlee government's policy of decolonisation. Churchill, always the imperialist, believed that Britain's position as a world power depended on the empire's continued existence.
Churchill had been obliged to recognise Colonel Nasser's revolutionary government of Egypt, which took power in 1952. Much to Churchill's private dismay, agreement was reached in October 1954 on the phased evacuation of British troops from their Suez base. In addition, Britain agreed to terminate her rule in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan by 1956, though this was in return for Nasser's abandonment of Egyptian claims over the region. Elsewhere, the Malayan Emergency, a guerrilla war fought by Communist fighters against Commonwealth forces, had begun in 1948 and continued past Malayan independence (1957) until 1960. Churchill's government maintained the military response to the crisis and adopted a similar strategy for the Mau Mau Uprising in British Kenya (1952–1960).
Churchill was uneasy about the election of Eisenhower as Truman's successor. After Stalin died on 5 March 1953, Churchill sought a summit meeting with the Soviets but Eisenhower refused out of fear that the Soviets would use it for propaganda. By July of that year, Churchill was deeply regretting that the Democrats had not been returned. He told Colville that Eisenhower as president was "both weak and stupid". Churchill believed that Eisenhower did not fully comprehend the danger posed by the H-bomb and he greatly distrusted Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. Churchill met Eisenhower to no avail at the Three-Powers (French Prime Minister Joseph Laniel being the third participant) Bermuda Conference in December 1953 (with Churchill as the host, as the conference was on British territory) and in June/July 1954 at the White House. In the end it was the Soviets who proposed a four-power summit, but it didn't meet until 18 July 1955, three months after Churchill had retired.
Elizabeth II offered to create Churchill Duke of London, but this was declined as a result of the objections of his son Randolph, who would have inherited the title on his father's death. He did, however, accept the Order of the Garter to become Sir Winston. Although publicly supportive, Churchill was privately scathing about Eden's handling of the Suez Crisis and Clementine believed that many of his visits to the United States in the following years were attempts to help repair Anglo-American relations. After leaving the premiership, Churchill remained an MP until he stood down at the 1964 general election. By the time of the 1959 general election, however, he seldom attended the House of Commons. Despite the Conservative landslide in 1959, his own majority in Woodford fell by more than a thousand. He spent most of his retirement at Chartwell or at his London home in Hyde Park Gate, and became a habitué of high society at La Pausa on the French Riviera.
In June 1962, when he was 87, Churchill had a fall in Monte Carlo and broke his hip. He was flown home to a London hospital where he remained for three weeks. Jenkins says that Churchill was never the same after this accident and his last two years were something of a twilight period. In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy, acting under authorisation granted by an Act of Congress, proclaimed him an Honorary Citizen of the United States, but he was unable to attend the White House ceremony. There has been speculation that he became very depressed in his final years but this has been emphatically denied by his personal secretary Anthony Montague Browne, who was with him for his last ten years. Montague Browne wrote that he never heard Churchill refer to depression and certainly did not suffer from it.
Churchill suffered his final stroke on 12 January 1965. He died nearly two weeks later on the 24th, which was the seventieth anniversary of his father's death. He was given a state funeral six days later on 30 January, the first for a non-royal person since W. E. Gladstone in 1898.
Planning for Churchill's funeral had begun in 1953 under the code-name of "Operation Hope Not" and a detailed plan had been produced by 1958. His coffin lay in state at Westminster Hall for three days and the funeral ceremony was at St Paul's Cathedral. Afterwards, the coffin was taken by boat along the River Thames to Waterloo Station and from there by a special train to the family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near his birthplace at Blenheim Palace.
Worldwide, numerous memorials have been dedicated to Churchill. His statue in Parliament Square was unveiled by Clementine in 1973 and is one of only twelve in the square, all of prominent political figures, including Churchill's friend Lloyd George and his India policy nemesis Gandhi. Elsewhere in London, the wartime Cabinet War Rooms have been renamed the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. An indication of Churchill's high esteem in the UK is the result of the 2002 BBC poll, attracting 447,423 votes, in which he was voted the greatest Briton of all time, his nearest rival being Isambard Kingdom Brunel some 56,000 votes behind.
He is one of only eight people to be granted honorary citizenship of the United States; others include Lafayette, Raoul Wallenberg and Mother Teresa. The United States Navy honoured him in 1999 by naming a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer as the USS Winston S. Churchill. Other memorials in North America include the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, where he made the 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech; Churchill Square in central Edmonton, Alberta; and the Winston Churchill Range, a mountain range northwest of Lake Louise, also in Alberta, which was renamed after Churchill in 1956.
Churchill married Clementine Hozier in September 1908. They remained married for 57 years. Churchill was aware of the strain that his political career placed on his marriage, and, according to Colville, he had a brief affair in the 1930s with Doris Castlerosse.
The Churchills' first child, Diana, was born in July 1909; the second, Randolph, in May 1911. Their third, Sarah, was born in October 1914, and their fourth, Marigold, in November 1918. The latter died in August 1921, from sepsis of the throat and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. On 15 September 1922, the Churchills' last child, Mary, was born. Later that month, the Churchills bought Chartwell, which would be their home until Winston's death in 1965. According to Jenkins, Churchill was an "enthusiastic and loving father" but one who expected too much of his children.
|Ancestors of Winston Churchill|
Churchill was a prolific writer. He used either "Winston S. Churchill" or "Winston Spencer Churchill" as his pen name to avoid confusion with the American novelist of the same name, with whom he struck up a friendly correspondence. His output included a novel, two biographies, three volumes of memoirs, several histories, and numerous press articles. Two of his most famous works, published after his first premiership brought his international fame to new heights, were his twelve-volume memoir, The Second World War, and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: a four-volume history covering the period from Julius Caesar's invasions of Britain (55 BC) to the beginning of the First World War (1914). For many years, Churchill relied heavily upon his press articles to assuage his financial worries. In 1937, for example, he wrote 64 articles that were published by, among others, the Evening Standard, the News of the World or the Sunday Chronicle. These contracts were quite lucrative: the News of the World paid him about £400 per article. At times, his work was at least partially ghostwritten, mainly by Adam Marshall Diston who was paid a fee of £15 per article. In recognition of his "mastery of historical and biographical description" and oratorial output, Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.
As well as writing, Churchill took great pleasure in painting and became an accomplished amateur artist after his resignation from the Admiralty in 1915. Using the pseudonym "Charles Morin", he continued this hobby throughout his life and completed hundreds of paintings, many of which are on show in the studio at Chartwell as well as in private collections. Most of his paintings are oil-based and feature landscapes, but he also did a number of interior scenes and portraits. In 1925 Lord Duveen, Kenneth Clark, and Oswald Birley selected his Winter Sunshine as the prize winner in a contest for anonymous amateur artists. Due to obvious time constraints, Churchill attempted only one painting during the Second World War. He completed the painting from the tower of the Villa Taylor in Marrakesh.
Churchill was an amateur bricklayer, constructing buildings and garden walls at Chartwell. As part of this hobby, Churchill joined the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers but was expelled after he revived his membership of the Conservative Party. He also bred butterflies at Chartwell, keeping them in a converted summerhouse each year until the weather was right for their release. He was well known for his love of animals and always had several pets, mainly cats but also dogs, pigs, lambs, bantams, goats and fox cubs among others. Churchill has often been quoted as saying that "cats look down us and dogs look up to us, but pigs treat us as equals", or words to that effect, but the International Churchill Society believe he has mostly been misquoted.
Churchill was a career politician, but one perceived by some observers to have been largely motivated by personal ambition, rather than political principle, and to have had a "vacuum in his beliefs". According to one biographer, Robert Rhodes James, he was "fundamentally a very conservative man", though lacking in "permanent commitment to any party". Gilbert among others says Churchill was always "liberal in outlook".
Whether he was conservative or liberal, Churchill always opposed socialism, especially its tendencies toward state planning and bureaucracy, because he consistently believed in both the liberty of the individual and of free markets. In May 1908, when he was a member of the Liberal Party, he declared that "liberalism is not socialism, and never will be. There is a great gulf (of principle) fixed (because) while socialism seeks to pull down wealth, liberalism seeks to raise up poverty". Paradoxically, he was supportive of trade unionism, which he saw as the "antithesis of socialism". He argued that the ordinary working class citizen, even if a trade union member, was "a strong individualist, a sturdy patriot and a nationalist". For those reasons, he was able to form a strong bond with Bevin and place great faith in organised labour throughout the Second World War.
While Churchill was in some respects a radical and a reformer, he accepted and endorsed the existence of class division in British society. Rhodes James agrees that Churchill sought social reform, though not out of a desire to challenge the existing social structure – rather out of an attempt to preserve it. Jenkins says that Churchill's privileged background prevented him from empathising with the poor and so, instead, "he sympathise[d] with them from on high", displaying what Addison calls the attitude of a "benevolent paternalist".
The historian Roger Hermiston writes that, when forming a coalition in May 1940, it certainly helped Churchill that his own career had "never been circumscribed by party affiliation". Whatever differences he may have had with Labour in the past, Churchill knew and understood that at the moment of national crisis on 10 May 1940, his administration must command the broadest possible support.
Coalition in the form of a centre party was an old ideal of Churchill's; in 1902, he wrote that "the idea of a central party, fresher, freer, more efficient, yet, above all, loyal and patriotic, is very pleasing to my heart". His recurring dream was that such a party would unite all the moderate elements of the main British parties and so remain permanently in office. Jenkins says that, when Churchill became aligned with Lloyd George in 1908, they formed "a partnership of constructive radicalism, two social reforming New Liberals who had turned their backs on the old Gladstonian tradition of concentrating on libertarian political issues and leaving social conditions to look after themselves". In 1924, Churchill contemplated forming a new party called the "Liberal-Conservatives". The historian Stuart Ball notes that he was always comfortable with the idea of governing coalitions.
Churchill was always an imperialist, with the historian Edward Adams characterising him as an adherent of "liberal imperialism". Jenkins says Churchill "exhibited a romanticised view" of the British Empire. Addison says he saw British imperialism as a form of altruism that benefited its subject peoples because "by conquering and dominating other peoples, the British were also elevating and protecting them". To Churchill, the idea of dismantling the Empire by transferring power to its subject peoples was anathema.
While some critics have equated Churchill's imperialism with racialism, belief in the racial superiority of the British was widespread during Churchill's lifetime, even among liberals and socialists, and Churchill as a man of his time also subscribed to such ideas. Addison has argued that it is misleading to describe him as a racialist in a modern context because the term as used now bears "many connotations which were alien to Churchill". Addison points out that Churchill opposed anti-Semitism and would have never tried "to stoke up racial animosity against immigrants, or to persecute minorities". Throughout his career, he was well disposed to Zionism, and, in 1920, called it an "inspiring movement".
Although Churchill upset both Edward VII and George V during his political career, he was firmly monarchist. He displayed a romanticised view of the British monarchy, and this was especially so in his warm regard for Elizabeth II. His loyalty to Edward VIII almost ruined his political career but, following the abdication, Churchill immediately transferred his loyalty to George VI with whom, despite some initial reservations on the King's side, he formed a close relationship during World War II.
Churchill was an early proponent of pan-Europeanism having written an article in 1930 calling for a "United States of Europe", although it included the qualification that Britain must be "with Europe but not of it". After the Second World War, he eagerly sought the creation of the Council of Europe to be centred round a Franco-German partnership, with Britain and the US as "friends and sponsors of the new Europe". He supported the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950 but again emphasised that Britain must not actually join any federal grouping. In November 1951, he called for a "United Europe" in a Cabinet paper but under the proviso that "(it is) only when plans for uniting Europe take a federal form that we cannot take part, because we cannot subordinate ourselves or the control of British policy to federal authorities".
Churchill always opposed partition of Ireland. As a minister in 1913 and again in 1921, he suggested that Ulster have some autonomy from an independent Irish government, but was always opposed by Ulster Unionists. As Leader of the Opposition, he told John W. Dulanty and Frederick Boland, successive Irish ambassadors to London, that he still hoped for a united Ireland.
Churchill always self-confidently believed himself to be a man of destiny and, because of this, he lacked restraint and could be reckless. His self-belief manifested itself in terms of his "affinity with war" with which, according to Haffner, he exhibited "a profound and innate understanding". Churchill considered himself a military genius but, according to Addison, his failure at Gallipoli was "the greatest blow his self-image was ever to sustain". Jenkins pointed out, however, that although Churchill was excited and exhilarated by war, he was never indifferent to the suffering it causes.
Jenkins stated that in Churchill's early parliamentary years, he was often deliberately provocative and "argumentatively dexterous to an unusual degree"." Rhodes James was of the view that, when speaking in the House of Commons, Churchill gave the impression of having a chip on his shoulder and was "deliberately aggressive". His barbed rhetorical style earned him many enemies in parliament. On the other hand, Gilbert said of Churchill's early parliamentary career that he reflected "zeal, intelligence, and eagerness to learn". Churchill was nevertheless deemed to be an honest politician who was, according to Jenkins, "singularly lacking in inhibition or concealment". Rhodes James said he "lacked any capacity for intrigue and was refreshingly innocent and straightforward". Gilbert noted that Churchill's literary style was "outspoken, vigorous, with the written equivalent of a mischievous grin".
Rhodes James described Churchill as "a career politician, profoundly ambitious and eager for prominence". Churchill had a good memory, and according to Addison had "the capacity to combine a highly personal vision with command of the smallest detail". In his later career, Churchill gained a reputation as being the last Victorian in British politics. Jenkins thought this was not a fair assessment, stating that Churchill remained "essentially an Edwardian rather than a Victorian" in his attitudes.
Churchill developed a reputation for being a heavy drinker of alcoholic beverages, although this was often exaggerated and he was an extremely active man. He was a particular fan of polo, a sport that he played while stationed in India, and throughout much of his life went hunting, whether for grouse and stag in Scotland or boar in northern France.
Churchill displayed particular loyalty to his family and close friends. For instance, when Lloyd George was going through the Marconi scandal, one of the lowest points of his career, Churchill supported him. One of his closest friends, even when he was a Liberal, was the Conservative MP F. E. Smith. In 1911, he became close with Grey, and another longstanding friend was Violet Asquith. Like his father, Churchill faced jibes that many of his friends were Jewish.
From childhood, Churchill had been unable to pronounce the letter s, verbalising it with a slur. This lateral lisp continued throughout his career, reported consistently by journalists of the time and later. Authors writing in the 1920s and 1930s, before sound recording became common, also mentioned Churchill having a stammer or stutter, sometimes describing it in terms such as "severe" or "agonising". The International Churchill Society says the majority of records show his impediment was a lateral lisp and that the alleged stutter is a myth. Churchill worked hard on his pronunciation by repeating phrases designed to cure his problem with the sibilant "s". He was ultimately successful and was eventually able to say: "My impediment is no hindrance". In time, he turned the impediment into an asset and could use it to great effect, as when he called Hitler a "Narzee" (rhymes with "khazi"; emphasis on the "z"), rather than a Nazi ("ts").
Rhodes James thought that, in part because of his speech impediment, Churchill was "not a natural impromptu speaker". Churchill therefore memorised speeches before he gave them. Gilbert believed that during the early 1900s, when Churchill worked as a professional speech giver, he mastered "every aspect of the art of speech-making". Jenkins noted that "Churchill lived by phrase-making. He thought rhetorically, and was constantly in danger of his policy being made by his phrases rather than vice versa". For Rhodes James, Churchill was "particularly effective" at "invective and raillery" and that he was "at his most effective when he made deliberate use of humour and sarcasm".
Churchill was christened in the Church of England but, as he related later, he underwent a virulently anti-Christian phase in his youth, and as an adult was an agnostic. In an 1898 letter to his mother, Churchill related: "I do not accept the Christian or any other form of religious belief". In a letter to his cousin he referred to religion as "a delicious narcotic" and expressed a preference for Protestantism over Roman Catholicism because he felt it "a step nearer Reason".
According to the scholars David Reagles and Timothy Larsen, Churchill was nevertheless "sympathetic to religious belief" and retained "an emotional and spiritual connection with the Church of England—albeit one that stood at arms' length to its teachings". He viewed Christianity as being linked to civilisation, thought Christian ethics provided a good grounding for children, and encouraged the religion's promotion through the British Empire.
The historian Robert Rhodes James stated that Churchill had lived an "exceptionally long, complex, and controversial life", one which—in the realm of British parliamentary politics—was comparable only to Gladstone's in its "length, drama and incident". Roy Jenkins concluded his biography of Churchill by comparing him with Gladstone, whom he recognised as "undoubtedly" the greatest nineteenth century prime minister. When he began his biography, Jenkins regarded Gladstone as the greater man but changed his mind in the course of writing. He concluded his work by ranking Churchill:
.....with all his idiosyncracies, his indulgences, his occasional childishness, but also his genius, his tenacity and his persistent ability (to be) larger than life, as the greatest ever (prime minister).
The view of Churchill as a great man is owed to his leadership of the British people in the Second World War. In a 2019 interview, Boris Johnson stated that Churchill "saved this country and the whole of Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny, and our debt to him is incalculable". Even so, Churchill's legacy continues to stir intense debate among writers and historians. This difficulty had been expressed by Paul Addison in 1980 when he noted that there are many people "so prejudiced for or against Churchill" that they had no interest in critically assessing him as a historical figure; Addison himself considered Churchill to be a "great historic figure".
Churchill's idiosyncrasies and indulgences have somewhat soured his otherwise great reputation. Throughout his career, his outspokenness earned him enemies and he was controversial even before he became an MP, perceived by many to be "an adventurer and a medal-hunter", thought to be egotistical and self-absorbed with a tendency to make choices reflecting poor judgement. According to Addison, Churchill was seen as "a politician obsessed by personal interest, pushing himself relentlessly forward in a blaze of publicity at the expense of worthier men". Until the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill's approach to politics generated widespread "mistrust and dislike", largely on account of his two party defections.
Churchill was long regarded as an enemy of the working class. His response to the Rhonda Valley unrest and his anti-socialist rhetoric brought condemnation from socialists. They saw Churchill as a reactionary who represented imperialism, militarism, and the interests of the upper classes in the class war. His role in opposing the General Strike earned the enmity of many strikers and most members of the Labour movement.
However, the historian Edward Moritz Jr noted that, while some on the left presented Churchill as "a vicious reactionary and a hater of the working class", this did not take Churchill's domestic reforms into account. Jenkins, himself a senior Labour minister, remarked that Churchill had "a substantial record as a social reformer" for his work in the first part of his parliamentary career. Similarly, Rhodes James thought that, as a social reformer, Churchill's achievements were "considerable". This, said Rhodes James, had been achieved because Churchill as a minister had "three outstanding qualities. He worked hard; he put his proposals efficiently through the Cabinet and Parliament; he carried his Department with him. These ministerial merits are not as common as might be thought".
While the biographies by Addison, Gilbert, Jenkins and Rhodes James are among the most acclaimed works about Churchill, he has been the subject of numerous others and has been widely depicted on stage and screen. Notable screen biopics include Young Winston (1972), directed by Richard Attenborough; Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), starring Robert Hardy and with Martin Gilbert as co-writer; The Gathering Storm (2002), starring Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave; and Darkest Hour (2017), starring Gary Oldman. Finney and Oldman won major awards for their performances as Churchill.
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament
Served alongside: Alfred Emmott
| Member of Parliament
for Manchester North West
| Member of Parliament
Served alongside: Alexander Wilkie
| Member of Parliament
|New constituency|| Member of Parliament
| Father of the House
The Duke of Marlborough
| Undersecretary of State for the Colonies
| President of the Board of Trade
| Home Secretary
| First Lord of the Admiralty
| Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
| Minister of Munitions
| Secretary of State for Air
The Viscount Milner
| Secretary of State for War
| Secretary of State for the Colonies
The Duke of Devonshire
| Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Earl Stanhope
| First Lord of the Admiralty
A. V. Alexander
| Leader of the House of Commons
| Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Lord Chatfield
as Minister for Coordination of Defence
| Minister of Defence|
| Leader of the Opposition|
| Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
| Minister of Defence
The Earl Alexander of Tunis
| Rector of the University of Aberdeen
The Viscount Cowdray
| Rector of the University of Edinburgh
The Viscount Haldane
| Chancellor of the University of Bristol
The Duke of Beaufort
|Party political offices|
| Leader of the Conservative Party
The Marquess of Willingdon
| Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
The Viscount Ullswater
| Senior Privy Counsellor
The Earl of Swinton
| Laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature
The Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
| Oldest living Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
| Oldest sitting Member of Parliament