Sir Winston ChurchillBladon
30 November 1874 - 24 January 1965 
 
 
 
 
Winston Churchill is probably Britain’s best known politician and leader of the 20th century. A man of exceptional ability who did not excel at school and had a speech impediment, he went on to be a great leader, orator and a prolific author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.
 
His early life was unhappy and lonely. He was born into a family that descended from the aristocratic Spencer line. In the 18th century the Spencers had added the name ‘Churchill’ to their family name to highlight their direct descendancy from John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire was the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough. It was here on 30 November, 1874 that Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born.
 
Winston’s father was Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of the 7th duke of Marlborough and his mother, an American heiress, Jennie Jerome. Lord Randolph was making a career for himself in politics and Jennie was enjoying her role as a society hostess.
 
Winston's Early Life
Pregnancy was not part of Jennie’s plan but she hastily married Lord Randolph and threw herself into her new role as Lady Randolph Churchill, wife of the Leader of the Conservative Party and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Winston was brought up by his beloved nanny, Elizabeth Anne Everest. He had very little contact with his father and mother although he craved her love and attention.
 
Winston was not an easy child to love or befriend. He had an independent nature and was very rebellious, headstrong and obstinate. He was not very tall and had a speech impediment. His physical imperfections made him an easy target for bullies at school so he invented a tough exterior and tended to engage in dangerous adventures.
 
He was very aware of his ancestors’ place in history and of their great military careers. He loved to re-create the important battles of history with model soldiers, accurate in every detail. His collection of model soldiers can be seen in the excellent Churchill War Rooms in London.
 
At 13 years of age Winston was sent to Harrow Boarding School and he got the opportunity to pursue his military ambitions by joining the Harrow Rifle Corps.
 
He received a Classical education but hated Latin, Greek and Mathematics. He did poorly in these subjects for which he was physically punished. However, he excelled at English and History. His passion for these led him to write a number of remarkable, eminently readable autobiographies covering some of the most turbulent years in modern history.
 
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Sandhurst Military College
He pursued his military ambitions by entering the Royal Military College at Sandhurst aged 18, where he did very well. He graduated with honours and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant. He requested to be sent to the front line in active war zones. He considered his military pay was not sufficient to live the life of an officer so he supplemented his income by becoming a war correspondent.
 
When he was 21 his nanny, Mrs Everest fell gravely ill. He spent the last week of her life with her and was desolate when she died. She had been his emotional support and dearest friend for the first twenty years of his life.
 
Winston’s army career was spent in some of the most exciting and adventurous campaigns from which he sent vivid despatches to the newspapers direct from the frontline.
 
When not on campaigns he turned these despatches into successful books. In 1899 he tried his hand at politics as the Conservative candidate for Oldham in north England. He was not elected so he looked around for another war to report on. He gained his greatest notoriety by going as a War Correspondent to the Second Boer War in South Africa. He was captured and put in a prisoner of war camp from which he escaped.
 
His adventures in South Africa gained him hero status in England. When he tried politics again in 1900 he was much better known and was elected MP for Oldham.
 
Elected to Parliament at age 26
By the time he was elected to Parliament at the age of 26 he had witnessed bloody massacres and the futility of war, been a war hero, a journalist and written five books.
 
In true Churchillian fashion Winston did not agree with some of the policies of his chosen Conservative Party and said so. He voted against his own party and was effectively disendorsed. He ignored this and continued to sit in Parliament and in 1904 he became a member of the Liberal Party.
 
While the Liberals were in power he held several influential and important posts, among them Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. During this period he met Clementine Hozier and they were married in 1908.
 
After the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign of World War I Winston resigned from the government and went back into the army while still remaining an MP. He comanded a battalion in the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front. In 1917 Winston was invited back into the Cabinet and was made Minister in charge of the War Office.
 
Churchill was an advocate of foreign intervention and believed that undesirable political movements such as bolshevism should be nipped in the bud. He foresaw the dangers posed by Adolf Hitler and warned of them long before World War II eventuated. He was seen as a war monger but when the crunch came it was to Winston Churchill that the British people turned.
 
Churchill’s political career was full of controversial decisions and opinions forcefully expressed. When he failed to be elected as a Liberal in the 1922 General Election he stood several times more as an Independent in various by-elections. Eventually he was returned to Parliament in 1924 as an Independent for the seat of Epping with Conservative Party backing.
 
A year later he rejoined the Conservative Party and was made Chancellor of the Exchequer. His government was plagued with unemployment, deflation, and the General Strike which ultimately led into the Great Depression. In 1929 the Conservative Government was thrown out of power and Churchill’s period in the political wilderness began.
 
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Chartwell House
In 1922 the Churchills had bought their family home Chartwell in Kent. There was plenty to keep Winston busy, a young family and lovely grounds to be landscaped. He spent his time in Opposition at home writing and made a very good living as a successful author. He would only return to Parliament if he had to make a speech.
 
Churchill was vocal in his opposition to Independence for India, and the running down of Britain’s defences and armaments. He was a great admirer of strong leaders, even Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. However, he warned against the dangers of German rearmament and dictators. He criticised the policies of his own party and ridiculed Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement.
 
At the outbreak of World War II Churchill was invited into the War Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. In line with his long held beliefs he advocated foreign intervention. He wanted Britain to go into neutral Norway and Sweden to gain control of the iron mines before Germany did. The Cabinet and Chamberlain resisted and of course Norway fell to Germany and Sweden tried to retain its neutrality. Germany took advantage of Britain’s weakness and advanced rapidly into the rest of Europe.
 
Prime Minister
The British people lost confidence in Chamberlain’s conduct of the war and he resigned. Churchill was seen as the man most able to lead the country and King George VI invited him to be Prime Minister. An all-party government was formed and Churchill led Britain and the Allies through the dark days of World War II. This remarkable period can be experienced by visiting the actual buildings where life and death decisions were taken, the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall, London.
 
Churchill’s ‘no surrender’ stance made him a national hero. Despite all the hardships and tragedy they suffered the British people never forgot what they owed to this man and the Allies he galvanised into helping to defeat Adolf Hitler.
 
He always seemed strong and resolute even though privately he suffered doubts and depression.
 
State Funeral
When Sir Winston died in 1965 the Queen decreed he 'Lie in State' in Westminster Hall for three days before being accorded a State Funeral, an honour normally only given to Royalty. After a service in St Paul's Cathedral his body was taken by barge down the Thames and then by rail to Oxford. He is buried in St Martin’s churchyard at Bladon Village, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
 
Bond Street Statue
There are many statues of Winston Churchill all over Britain but one of the best is in Bond Street, London. Here, he is sitting on a wooden seat in conversation with his friend and ally Franklin D Roosevelt. Often tourists can be seen sitting on Winston’s knee having their photograph taken.  
 
 
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