British Prime Minister: Winston Churchill

Winston Leonard Spencer – Churchill was born on the 30th November 1874, to parents Lord Randolph Churchill and Jeannie Jerome.  He grew up in Dublin, where his father was employed by his grandfather, the 7th Duke of Marlborough.

In April 1888 he enrolled at the Harrow Boarding School, and joined the Harrow Rifle Corps, his first steps towards a military career.  He attended the British Royal Military College and graduated 20th out of 130.

In 1895, aged 21 his father died.  His relationship with his father was distant, and really only knew him, by his reputation.  That same year he joined the British Army serving in the Fourth Hassars, in the Indian northwest frontiers and Sudan, where he saw action in the “Battle of Omdurman” in 1898.

He wrote military reports, which were published by the Daily Telegraph and Pioneer newspapers, informing people at home, what was going on in a land far away.  He proved himself as a writer, with two published books; “The Story of the Markland Field Force” (1898) and “The River War” (1899).

In 1899, Churchill left the army; no longer a soldier, but a war correspondent, employed by the Morning Post. 

He made headline news, when he was captured by the Boers, whilst reporting on the Boer War in South Africa.  He escaped his captors and made his way to the Portuguese territory in Mozambique, a distance of 300 miles through hostile territory.  In 1900 upon his return to Britain, wrote of his experiences in his book; “London to Ladysmith”.

Churchill followed his father into the world of Politics in 1900 becoming a Member of Parliament for Oldham, representing the Conservative Party.  In 1904 he switched his alliance to the Liberal Party, believing the Conservative’s were not committed to social justice.  In 1908 he was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament, and appointed as President of the Board of Trade, and a member of the Prime Minister’s cabinet.

In 1908 he backed the then Chancellor; Lloyd George opposing the expansion of the British Navy.  In the same year introduced the minimum wage and assisted in the creation of Labour Exchanges.  In the People’s Budget of 1908, it called for the wealthy to pay taxes which would be used to pay for social welfare programs, which was controversial at the time, yet it was eventually passed in 1910.

In 1913 he drafted a controversial piece of legislation calling for the sterilization of the feeble minded; “The Mental Deficiency Act” which was eventually passed with minor adjustments.

During a London siege in January 1911.  Churchill stepped in as two robbers who were held up in a house which caught fire, showed no intention of coming out.  He prevented the fire brigade risking their lives, and their charred bodies were discovered after the fire burnt itself out.

Churchill was responsible for the modernisation of the British Navy at a time when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, and promoted military aircraft and set up the Royal Navy Air Service.

He saw action in “No Man’s Land” commanding The Royasl Scots Fusiliers for a short time, then in 1917 became Minister of Munitions.

Between 1919 and 1922 his position in the Prime Ministers Cabinet (David Lloyd George), was that of Minister of War and Colonial secretary.  It was he who ordered that planes should be used against rebellious Kurdish tribesman ion Iraq to quell their actions… which turned out to be unsuccessful.

In 1922 he lost his seat in Parliament, and left the Liberals and rejoined the Conservatives.  When he became Chancellor of the Exchequer and showed his strength, clashing with supporters of the General Labour strike that threatened to cripple the British Economy.

The Conservatives lost the 1929 General Election and Churchill was out of the government.  He turned away from politics for the next few years, and wrote his book; “A History of English Speaking People.”

In 1933 Churchill became an advocate for British rearmament as Adolph Hitler rose to power in Germany.  By 1938 Nazi Germany had overcome some of its neighbours… the writing was on the wall.  Churchill opposed the then Prime Minister; Neville Chamberlain’s police of appeasement towards Germany.

On the 3rd September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany.  Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, member of the War Cabinet and in April 1940 Chairman of the Military Committee.

In April 1940 Germany invaded Norway, and Chamberlain was forced to step down from his post as a result of a vote of no-confidence in the house.

On the 10th May 1940, King George VI appointed Winston Churchill to the post of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence.  The German’s had begun their Western attack, invading Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.  Britain was left alone against their onslaught.

Churchill formed a coalition cabinet of leaders from Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties, placing intelligent men in key positions.  On the 18th June 1940, he made his speech to the House of Commons, warning them the “Battle of Britain” was about to begin.

In December 1941, the United States entered the war, and he created an alliance with them and the Soviet Union.

As the war ended, he was defeated in the General Election of July 1945.  He had taken us to victory against allied forces, and maybe the voter’s thought of him as a War Minister.

In March of 1946, he warned of Soviet domination in Europe.  He also believed Britain should maintain its independence from Europe.

In October of 1951, Churchill returned to a government position as Minister of Defence and then Prime Minister.

In 1953, Winston Churchill was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and received the Nobel Prize for his achievements in the field of Peace and Literature.

His last memorable reforms, would be the improved working conditions for miners, and establishing the Housing Repairs and the Rent Act of 1955.

The war years had taken its toll on his health, yet he showed it little, for he had a job to do.  In 1941 and 1943, suffered a few mild heart attacks, and in 1953 aged 78, suffered a series of strokes.

In 1955 he retired, giving the reason he was suffering from exhaustion, and at the 1964 General Election did not seek re-election.  As his health gradually worsened, he remained as active as possible, seeing people from the comfort of his home.

On the 15th January 1965, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill suffered a severe stroke, and on the 24th January 1965 aged 90, this great man of our time died.

He will always be remembered, for leading the people of Britain, from the brink of defeat, to victory in World War Two.

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