|The Right Honourable
Sir Winston Churchill
KG OM CH TD PCc DL FRS RA
Churchill, December 1941 by Yousuf Karsh
|Prime Minister of the United Kingdom|
26 October 1951 – 6 April 1955
|Preceded by||Clement Attlee|
|Succeeded by||Anthony Eden|
10 May 1940 – 26 July 1945
|Preceded by||Neville Chamberlain|
|Born||Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill
30 November 1874
Woodstock, Oxfordshire, UK
|Died||24 January 1965
Kensington, Co. London, UK
|Cause of death||Stroke|
|Resting place||St Martin's Church, Bladon|
|Spouse(s)||Clementine Hozier (m. 1908)|
|Alma mater||Royal Military College, Sandhurst|
|Years of service||
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill KG OM CH TD PC PCc DL FRS RA (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a non-academic historian, and a writer (as Winston S. Churchill). He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his overall, lifetime body of work. In 1963, he was the first of only eight people to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.
Churchill was born into the family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the Spencer family. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer; his mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American socialite. As a young army officer, he saw action in British India, the Anglo–Sudan War, and the Second Boer War. He gained fame as a war correspondent and wrote books about his campaigns.
At the forefront of politics for fifty years, he held many political and cabinet positions. Before the First World War, he served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty as part of Asquith's Liberal government. During the war, he continued as First Lord of the Admiralty until the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign caused his departure from government. He then briefly resumed active army service on the Western Front as commander of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He returned to government under Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, then Secretary of State for the Colonies. After two years out of Parliament, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Baldwin's Conservative government of 1924–1929, controversially returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure on the UK economy.
Out of office and politically "in the wilderness" during the 1930s because of his opposition to increased home rule for India and his resistance to the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII, Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany and in campaigning for rearmament. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. His speeches and radio broadcasts helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult days of 1940–41 when the British Commonwealth and Empire stood almost alone in its active opposition to Adolf Hitler. He led Britain as Prime Minister until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured.
After the Conservative Party suffered an unexpected defeat in the 1945 general election, he became Leader of the Opposition to the Labour Government. He publicly warned of an "Iron Curtain" of Soviet influence in Europe and promoted European unity. After winning the 1951 election, Churchill again became Prime Minister. His second term was preoccupied by foreign affairs, including the Malayan Emergency, Mau Mau Uprising, Korean War, and a UK-backed coup d'état in Iran. Domestically his government laid great emphasis on house-building. Churchill suffered a serious stroke in 1953 and retired as Prime Minister in 1955, although he remained a Member of Parliament until 1964. Upon his death aged ninety in 1965, Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen in history.
Named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll, Churchill is widely regarded as being among the most influential people in British history, consistently ranking well in opinion polls of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom. His highly complex legacy continues to stimulate intense debate amongst writers and historians.
- 1 Family and early life
- 2 Military service
- 3 Political career to the Second World War, 1900–39
- 3.1 Early years in Parliament
- 3.2 First Lord of the Admiralty (1911–15)
- 3.3 First World War and the Post-War Coalition
- 3.4 Constitutionalist
- 3.5 Rejoining the Conservative Party
- 3.6 Political isolation
- 3.7 Return from exile
- 4 First term as prime minister (1940–45)
- 5 In opposition, 1945–51
- 6 Second term as prime minister (1951–55)
- 7 Retirement and death (1955–65)
- 8 Legacy and historical assessments
- 9 Artist, historian, and writer
- 10 Honours
- 11 Cultural depictions
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Family and early life
Born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the noble Spencer family, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, like his father, used the surname "Churchill" in public life.
His ancestor George Spencer had changed his surname to Spencer-Churchill in 1817 when he became Duke of Marlborough, to highlight his descent from John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Churchill's father, Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, was a politician; and his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill (née Jennie Jerome) was the daughter of American millionaire Leonard Jerome. Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, two months prematurely, in a bedroom in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
From age two to six, he lived in Dublin, where his grandfather had been appointed Viceroy and employed Churchill's father as his private secretary. Churchill's brother, John Strange Spencer-Churchill, was born during this time in Ireland. It has been claimed that the young Churchill first developed his fascination with military matters from watching the many parades pass by the Vice Regal Lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland).
Churchill's earliest exposure to education occurred in Dublin, where a governess tried teaching him reading, writing, and arithmetic (his first reading book was called 'Reading Without Tears'). With limited contact with his parents, Churchill became very close to his nanny, 'Mrs' Elizabeth Ann Everest, whom he called 'Old Woom' (some references 'Woomany'). She served as his confidante, nurse, and mother substitute. The two spent many happy hours playing in Phoenix Park.
Independent and rebellious by nature, Churchill generally had a poor academic record in school. He was educated at three independent schools: St. George's School, Ascot, Berkshire; Brunswick School in Hove, near Brighton (the school has since been renamed Stoke Brunswick School and relocated to Ashurst Wood in West Sussex); and at Harrow School from 17 April 1888. Within weeks of his arrival at Harrow, Churchill had joined the Harrow Rifle Corps.
When young Winston started attending Harrow School, he was listed under the S's as Spencer Churchill. At that time Winston was a stocky boy with red hair who talked with a stutter and a lisp. Winston did so well in mathematics in his Harrow entrance exam that he was put in the top division for that subject. In his first year at Harrow he was recognised as being the best in his division for history. Winston entered the school, however, as the boy with the lowest grades in the lowest class, and he remained in that position. Winston never made it into the upper school because he would not study the classics. Although he did poorly in his schoolwork, he grew to love the English language. He hated Harrow. His mother rarely visited him, and he wrote letters begging her either to come to the school or to allow him to come home. His relationship with his father was distant; he once remarked that they barely spoke to one another. His father died on 24 January 1895, aged 45, leaving Churchill with the conviction that he too would die young and so should be quick about making his mark on the world.
Churchill had a lateral lisp that 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 stutter, describing it in terms such as "severe" or "agonising". The Churchill Centre and Museum says the majority of records show his impediment was a lateral lisp, while Churchill's stutter is a myth.
His dentures were specially designed to aid his speech. After many years of public speeches carefully prepared not only to inspire, but also to avoid hesitations, he could finally state, "My impediment is no hindrance".
Marriage and children
Churchill met his future wife, Clementine Hozier, in 1904 at a ball in Crewe House, home of the Earl of Crewe and Crewe's wife Margaret Primrose (daughter of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, and Hannah Rothschild). In 1908, they met again at a dinner party hosted by Lady St Helier. Churchill found himself seated beside Clementine, and they soon began a lifelong romance. He proposed to Clementine during a house party at Blenheim Palace on 10 August 1908, in a small Temple of Diana.
On 12 September 1908, he and Clementine were married in St. Margaret's, Westminster. The church was packed; the Bishop of St Asaph conducted the service. The couple spent their honeymoon at Highgrove House in Eastcote. In March 1909, the couple moved to a house at 33 Eccleston Square.
Their first child, Diana, was born in London on 11 July 1909. After the pregnancy, Clementine moved to Sussex to recover, while Diana stayed in London with her nanny. On 28 May 1911, their second child, Randolph, was born at 33 Eccleston Square. Their third child, Sarah, was born on 7 October 1914 at Admiralty House. The birth was marked with anxiety for Clementine, as Churchill had been sent to Antwerp by the Cabinet to "stiffen the resistance of the beleaguered city" after news that the Belgians intended to surrender the town.
Clementine gave birth to her fourth child, Marigold Frances Churchill, on 15 November 1918, four days after the official end of the First World War. In the early days of August 1921, the Churchills' children were entrusted to a French nursery governess in Kent, Mlle. Rose. Clementine traveled to Eaton Hall to play tennis with Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, and his family. While still under the care of Mlle. Rose, Marigold had a cold, but was reported to have recovered from the illness. As the illness progressed with hardly any notice, it turned into septicaemia. Rose sent for Clementine, but the illness proved fatal on 23 August 1921, and Marigold was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery three days later.
After Churchill left Harrow School in 1893, he applied to attend the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He tried and failed three times before eventually passing the entrance exam; he applied to be trained for the cavalry rather than the infantry because the required grade was lower and he was not required to learn mathematics, which he disliked. He graduated eighth out of a class of 150 in December 1894, and although he could now have transferred to an infantry regiment as his father had wished, chose to remain with the cavalry and was commissioned as a cornet (second lieutenant) in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars on 20 February 1895.
In 1941, he received the honour of being appointed Regimental Colonel of the 4th Hussars, an honour which was increased after the Second World War when he was appointed as Colonel-in-Chief; this privilege is usually reserved for members of the royal family. His pay as a second lieutenant in the 4th Hussars was £300 annually. However, he believed that he needed at least a further £500 (equivalent to £55,000 in 2012 terms) to support a style of life equal to that of other officers of the regiment. His mother provided an allowance of £400 per year, but this was repeatedly overspent. According to biographer Roy Jenkins, this is one reason why he took an interest in war correspondence. He did not intend to follow a conventional career of promotion through army ranks, but rather to seek out all possible chances of military action, using his mother's and family influence in high society to arrange postings to active campaigns. His writings brought him to the attention of the public, and earned him significant additional income. He acted as a war correspondent for several London newspapers and wrote his own books about the campaigns.
In 1895, during the Cuban War of Independence, Churchill and fellow officer Reginald Barnes travelled to Cuba to observe the Spanish fight the insurgent Cuban guerrillas; he had obtained a commission to write about the conflict from the Daily Graphic. He came under fire on his twenty-first birthday, the first of about 50 times during his life, and the Spanish awarded him his first medal.:17 Churchill had fond memories of Cuba.
While there, he soon acquired a taste for Havana cigars, which he would smoke for the rest of his life. While in New York, he stayed at the home of Bourke Cockran, an admirer of his mother. Bourke was an established American politician, and a member of the House of Representatives. He greatly influenced Churchill, both in his approach to oratory and politics, and encouraging a love of America. He soon received word that his nanny, Mrs Everest, was dying; he then returned to England and stayed with her for a week until she died. He wrote in his journal, "She was my favourite friend." In My Early Life he wrote: "She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of the twenty years I had lived."
India and self-education
In early October 1896, he was transferred to Bombay, British India. On arrival Churchill badly wrenched his shoulder while leaping from the boat, an injury which would plague him throughout his life. While he was considered one of the best polo players in his regiment, his injury would later require him to play polo with his upper arm strapped to his side.
Churchill came to Bangalore that year as a young army officer. In My Early Life he describes Bangalore as a city with excellent weather, and his allotted house as "a magnificent pink and white stucco palace in the middle of a large and beautiful garden" with servants, dhobi (to wash clothes), gardener, watchman and a water-carrier. It was in Bangalore he met Pamela Plowden, daughter of a civil servant; she became his first love. He privately described most British women in India as "nasty" and scoffed at their unshakable belief in their own beauty. His letters home show him to have been obsessed with British politics, advocating a centrist coalition between Lord Rosebery and Joseph Chamberlain, and critical of Lord Lansdowne’s proposal for increased spending on the army (opposition to which had been one of Lord Randolph’s reasons for resigning in December 1886; Churchill preferred Britain to concentrate on keeping a strong Royal Navy).
Partly at his mother’s urging, Churchill passed the long hot afternoons reading. He read multi-volume historical works by Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) and Macaulay (History of England) as well as Plato's Republic and works of economics. He toyed with the idea of studying for a degree in history, politics and economics, but regretted he did not have enough knowledge of Latin and Greek which were then a requirement of university entrance. He read Winwood Reade's work The Martyrdom of Man, writing to his mother that its critique of religion confirmed what he had reluctantly come to believe. Churchill believed that religion, although mostly not literally true, was a useful "crutch" until men were ready to rely on reason alone. He wrote to his old headmaster James Welldon, now Bishop of Calcutta, opposing Christian missions in India. Churchill argued that the State was perfectly entitled to dictate the doctrines of the Established Church of England and advocated non-denominational teaching in schools, by secular teachers, based on the Bible and Hymns Ancient and Modern.
Keith Robbins writes that Churchill’s opinions were largely formed at this time, and without the "scrutiny and criticism" to which they would have been subjected at a university, although he also suggests that Churchill’s love of the English language might not have flourished to the same degree under university conditions. John Charmley concurs, commenting that Churchill's self-education had not given him any training in the weighing of arguments and the absorption of the views of others, although he also points out that Lord Moran, Churchill's doctor in the 1940s, recorded Churchill's sympathy for adults who educated themselves later in life.
His mother also sent out copies of Parliamentary debates of the last few generations. Churchill would write down his opinion of each issue (e.g. the Judicature Acts of 1873 and 1875) before reading the debate, and then record his opinion again. He was highly critical of Lord Salisbury's Conservative-dominated Government, in power from the autumn of 1895, writing to his mother in March 1897, in an obvious echo of what he perceived his late father’s position to have been, that he was a Liberal in all but name, remaining a "Tory Democrat" solely because of the issue of Irish Home Rule.
In 1897, Churchill attempted to travel to report on and, if necessary, fight in the Greco-Turkish War, but this conflict effectively ended before he could arrive. Later, while preparing for a leave in England, he heard that three brigades of the British Army were going to fight against a Pashtun tribe in the North West Frontier of India, and he asked his superior officer if he could join the fight. He served in the Mohmand campaign of 1897–98, under the command of General Jeffery, the commander of the second brigade operating in Malakand, in the Frontier region of British India. Jeffery sent him with fifteen scouts to explore the Mamund Valley; while on reconnaissance, they encountered an enemy tribe, dismounted from their horses and opened fire. After an hour of shooting, their reinforcements, the 35th Sikhs, arrived; the firing gradually ceased and the brigade and the Sikhs marched on. Hundreds of tribesmen then ambushed them and opened fire, forcing them to retreat. As they were retreating, four men were carrying an injured officer, but the fierceness of the fight forced them to leave him behind. The man who was left behind was slashed to death before Churchill's eyes; afterwards he wrote of the killer, "I forgot everything else at this moment except a desire to kill this man." However, the Sikhs' numbers were being depleted, so the next commanding officer told Churchill to get the rest of the men to safety.
Before he left, he asked for a note so that he would not be charged with desertion. He received the note, quickly signed, headed up the hill and alerted the other brigade, whereupon they then engaged the army. The fighting in the region dragged on for another two weeks before the dead could be recovered. He wrote in his journal: "Whether it was worth it I cannot tell." During the campaign, he also wrote articles for the newspapers The Pioneer and The Daily Telegraph. Churchill drew on his experiences to write his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898), for which he received about £600.
Churchill was transferred to Egypt in 1898. He visited Luxor before joining an attachment[detachment?] of the 21st Lancers serving in the Sudan under the command of General Herbert Kitchener. During this time he encountered two military officers with whom he would work during the First World War: Douglas Haig, then a captain, and David Beatty, then a gunboat lieutenant. While in the Sudan, he participated in what has been described as the last meaningful British cavalry charge, at the Battle of Omdurman in September 1898. He worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post. By October 1898, he had returned to Britain and begun his two-volume work, The River War, an account of the conquest of the Sudan, which was published the following year. Churchill resigned from the British Army effective from 5 May 1899.
Having unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary by-election at Oldham in July, Churchill looked about for some other opportunity to advance his career. On 12 October 1899, the Second Boer War between Britain and the Boer Republics broke out and he obtained a commission to act as war correspondent for The Morning Post with a salary of £250 per month. He rushed to sail on the same ship as the newly appointed British commander, Sir Redvers Buller. After some weeks in exposed areas, he accompanied a scouting expedition in an armoured train, leading to his capture and imprisonment in a POW camp in Pretoria (converted school building for Pretoria High School for Girls). His actions during the ambush of the train led to speculation that he would be awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award to members of the armed forces for gallantry in the face of the enemy, but this was not possible, as he was a civilian.
He escaped from the prison camp and, with the assistance of an English mine manager, travelled almost 300 miles (480 km) to safety in Portuguese East Africa. His escape made him a minor national hero for a time in Britain. Instead of returning home, he rejoined General Buller's army on its march to relieve the British at the Siege of Ladysmith and take Pretoria. This time, although continuing as a war correspondent, he gained a commission in the South African Light Horse. He was among the first British troops into Ladysmith and Pretoria. He and his cousin, the Duke of Marlborough, were able to get ahead of the rest of the troops in Pretoria, where they demanded and received the surrender of 52 Boer prison camp guards.
In 1900, Churchill returned to England on the RMS Dunottar Castle, the same ship on which he had set sail for South Africa eight months earlier. The same year he published London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and a second volume of Boer war experiences, Ian Hamilton's March.
Territorial Service and advancement
In 1900, he retired from the regular army, and in 1902 joined the Imperial Yeomanry, where he was commissioned as a Captain in the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars on 4 January 1902. In that same year, he was initiated into Freemasonry at Studholme Lodge #1591, London, and raised to the Third Degree on 25 March 1902. In April 1905, he was promoted to Major and appointed to command of the Henley Squadron of the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars. In September 1916, he transferred to the territorial reserves of officers, where he remained until retiring in 1924 as a Major.
After his resignation from the government in 1915, Churchill returned to the British Army full time, attempting to obtain an appointment as brigade commander, but settling for command of a battalion. After spending some time training as a Major with the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, he was appointed temporary Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers (part of the 9th (Scottish) Division), on 1 January 1916. Correspondence with his wife shows that his intent in taking up active service was to rehabilitate his reputation, but this was balanced by the serious risk of being killed. During his period of command, his battalion was stationed at Ploegsteert but did not take part in any set battle. Although he disapproved strongly of the mass slaughter involved in many Western Front actions, he exposed himself to danger by making excursions to the front line or into No Man's Land.
Political career to the Second World War, 1900–39
Early years in Parliament
Churchill stood again for the seat of Oldham at the 1900 general election. After winning the seat, he went on a speaking tour throughout Britain and the United States, raising £10,000 for himself (about £980,000 today). From 1903 until 1905, Churchill was also engaged in writing Lord Randolph Churchill, a two-volume biography of his father which was published in 1906 and received much critical acclaim.
In Parliament, he became associated with a faction of the Conservative Party led by Lord Hugh Cecil; the Hughligans. During his first parliamentary session, he opposed the government's military expenditure and Joseph Chamberlain's proposal of extensive tariffs, which were intended to protect Britain's economic dominance. His own constituency effectively deselected him[how?], although he continued to sit for Oldham until the next general election. In the months leading up to his ultimate change of party from the Conservatives to the Liberals, Churchill made a number of evocative speeches against the principles of Protectionism; ‘to think you can make a man richer by putting on a tax is like a man thinking that he can stand in a bucket and lift himself up by the handle.' [Winston Churchill, Speech to the Free Trade League, 19 February 1904.] As a result of his disagreement with leading members of the Conservative Party over tariff reform, he made the decision to cross the floor. After the Whitsun recess in 1904, he crossed the floor to sit as a member of the Liberal Party.
As a Liberal, he continued to campaign for free trade. When the Liberals took office with Henry Campbell-Bannerman as prime minister, in December 1905, Churchill became Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, dealing mainly with South Africa after the Boer War. As Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1905–08, Churchill's primary focus was on settling the Transvaal Constitution, which was accepted by Parliament in 1907. This was essential for providing stability in South Africa. He campaigned in line with the Liberal Government to install responsible rather than representative government. This would alleviate pressure from the British government to control domestic affairs, including issues of race, in the Transvaal, delegating a greater proportion of power to the Boers themselves.[clarification needed]
Following his deselection in the seat of Oldham, Churchill was invited to stand for Manchester North West. He won the seat at the 1906 general election with a majority of 1,214 and represented the seat for two years. When Campbell-Bannerman was succeeded by H. H. Asquith in 1908, Churchill was promoted to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade.
Under the law at the time, a newly appointed Cabinet Minister was obliged to seek re-election at a by-election; Churchill lost his seat but was soon back as a member for Dundee constituency. As President of the Board of Trade he joined newly appointed Chancellor Lloyd George in opposing First Lord of the Admiralty Reginald McKenna's proposed huge expenditure for the construction of Navy dreadnought warships, and in supporting the Liberal reforms. In 1908, he introduced the Trade Boards Bill setting up the first minimum wages in Britain.
In 1909, he set up Labour Exchanges to help unemployed people find work. He helped draft the first unemployment pension legislation, the National Insurance Act of 1911. 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.
Churchill also assisted in passing the People's Budget, becoming President of the Budget League, an organisation set up in response to the opposition's Budget Protest League. The budget included the introduction of new taxes on the wealthy to allow for the creation of new social welfare programmes. After the budget bill was passed by the Commons in 1909 it was vetoed by the House of Lords. The Liberals then fought and won two general elections in January and December 1910 to gain a mandate for their reforms. The budget was passed after the first election, and after the second election the Parliament Act 1911, for which Churchill also campaigned, was passed. In 1910, he was promoted to Home Secretary. His term was controversial after his responses to the Cambrian Colliery dispute, the Siege of Sidney Street and the suffragettes. The People's Budget attempted to introduce a heavy tax on land value, inspired by the economist and philosopher Henry George.
In 1909, Churchill made several speeches with strong Georgist rhetoric, stating that land ownership is at the source of all monopoly. Furthermore, Churchill emphasises the difference between productive investment in capital (which he supports) and land speculation which gains an unearned income and has only negative consequences to society at large ("an evil").
In 1910, a number of coal miners in the Rhondda Valley began what has come to be known as the Tonypandy Riot. The Chief Constable of Glamorgan requested troops be sent in 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. On 9 November, The Times criticised this decision. In spite of this, the rumour persists that Churchill had ordered troops to attack, and his reputation in Wales and in Labour circles never recovered.
In early January 1911, Churchill made a controversial visit to the Siege of Sidney Street in London. There is some uncertainty as to whether he attempted to give operational commands, and his presence attracted much criticism. After an inquest, Arthur Balfour remarked, "he [Churchill] and a photographer were both risking valuable lives. I understand what the photographer was doing, but what was the right honourable gentleman doing?" Biographer Roy Jenkins suggests that he went simply because "he could not resist going to see the fun himself" and that he did not issue commands. A Metropolitan police history of the event, however, states that it was "a very rare case of a Home Secretary taking police operational command decisions." The police had the miscreants — Latvian anarchists wanted for murder — surrounded in a house, the Scots Guards from the Tower of London were called in. The house caught fire and Churchill prevented the fire brigade from dousing the flames so that the men inside were burned to death. "I thought it better to let the house burn down rather than spend good British lives in rescuing those ferocious rascals."
Churchill's proposed solution to the suffragette issue was a referendum on the issue, but this found no favour with Asquith and women's suffrage remained unresolved until after the First World War.
First Lord of the Admiralty (1911–15)
In October 1911, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and continued in the post into the First World War. While serving in this position, he put strong emphasis on modernisation and was also in favour of using aeroplanes in combat. He undertook flying lessons himself. He launched a programme to replace coal power with oil power. When he assumed his position, oil was already being used on submarines and destroyers, but most ships were still coal-powered, though oil was sprayed on the coals to boost maximum speed. Churchill began this programme by ordering that the upcoming Queen Elizabeth-class battleships were to be built with oil-fired engines. He established a Royal Commission chaired by Admiral Sir John Fisher, which confirmed the benefits of oil over coal in three classified reports, and judged that ample supplies of oil existed, but recommended that oil reserves be maintained in the event of war. The delegation then travelled to the Persian Gulf, and the government, largely through Churchill's advice, eventually invested in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, bought most of its stock, and negotiated a secret contract for a 20-year supply.
First World War and the Post-War Coalition
On 5 October 1914, Churchill went to Antwerp, which the Belgian government proposed to evacuate. The Royal Marine Brigade was on its way there and at Churchill's urgings the 1st and 2nd Naval Brigades were also committed. He returned on 7 October, but Antwerp fell on 10 October with 2,500 British men, many of them barely trained, take prisoner or interned in the neutral Netherlands. At the time he was attacked for squandering resources. Churchill maintained that his actions prolonged the resistance by a week (Belgium had proposed surrendering Antwerp on 3 October) and that this time enabled the Allies to secure Calais and Dunkirk.
Churchill was involved with the development of the tank, which was financed from the Navy budget. In February 1915 he appointed the Landships Committee, which oversaw the design and production of the first British tanks. However, he was also one of the political and military engineers of the disastrous Gallipoli landings in the Dardanelles. He took much of the blame for the fiasco, and when Prime Minister Asquith formed an all-party coalition government in late May of 1915, the Conservatives demanded his demotion as the price for entry.
For several months Churchill served in the sinecure of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. However, on 15 November 1915 he resigned from the government, feeling his energies were not being used. Although remaining a member of parliament, on 5 January 1916 he was given the temporary British Army rank of lieutenant colonel and served for several months on the Western Front, commanding the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. While in command at Ploegsteert he personally made 36 forays into no man's land.
In March 1916, Churchill returned to England after he had become restless in France and wished to speak again in the House of Commons. Future prime minister David Lloyd George acidly commented: "You will one day discover that the state of mind revealed in (your) letter is the reason why you do not win trust even where you command admiration. In every line of it, national interests are completely overshadowed by your personal concern."
In July 1917, Churchill was appointed Minister of Munitions, and in January 1919, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air. He was the main architect of the Ten Year Rule, a principle that allowed the Treasury to dominate and control strategic, foreign and financial policies under the assumption that "there would be no great European war for the next five or ten years".
A major preoccupation of his tenure in the War Office was the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. Churchill was a staunch advocate of foreign intervention, declaring that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle".
He secured, from a divided and loosely organised Cabinet, intensification and prolongation of the British involvement beyond the wishes of any major group in Parliament or the nation—and in the face of the bitter hostility of Labour. In 1920, after the last British forces had been withdrawn, Churchill was instrumental in having arms sent to the Poles when they invaded Ukraine. He was instrumental in having para-military forces (Black and Tans and Auxiliaries) intervene in the Irish War of Independence. He became Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1921 and was a signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which established the Irish Free State. Churchill was involved in the lengthy negotiations of the treaty and, to protect British maritime interests, he engineered part of the Irish Free State agreement to include three Treaty Ports—Queenstown (Cobh), Berehaven and Lough Swilly—which could be used as Atlantic bases by the Royal Navy. In 1938, however, under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement, the bases were returned to Ireland.
In 1919, Churchill sanctioned the use of tear gas on Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq. Though the British did consider the use of non-lethal poison gas in putting down Kurdish rebellions, it was not used, as conventional bombing was considered effective.
In 1919, Britain and the United States signed a treaty of alliance with France which the United States Senate refused to ratify, thus making the proposed Anglo-Franco-American alliance stillborn. In July 1921, Churchill argued at the Imperial conference of Dominion prime ministers that despite the rejection by the American Senate of the alliance with France that Britain should still sign a military alliance with France to guarantee post-war security. Churchill further argued that at the Paris peace conference the Americans and the British had successfully pressured the French from their plans to annex the Rhineland in exchange for the military alliance, thus creating a moral commitment for an alliance with France as the French had given up the demand for the Rhineland in exchange for an Anglo-American security guarantee that they did not get. Churchill's idea about an Anglo-French alliance was rejected at the conference as British public opinion and even more so Dominion public opinion was against the idea of the "continental commitment". On 4 May 1923, Churchill spoke in favour of the French occupation of the Ruhr, which was extremely unpopular in Britain saying: "We must not allow any particular phrase of French policy to estrange us from the great French nation. We must not turn our backs on our friends from the past".
In 1923, Churchill acted as a paid consultant for Burmah Oil (now BP plc) to lobby the British government to allow Burmah to have exclusive rights to Persian (Iranian) oil resources, which were successfully granted.
In September, the Conservative Party withdrew from the Coalition government, following a meeting of backbenchers dissatisfied with the handling of the Chanak Crisis, a move that precipitated the looming November 1922 general election. Churchill fell ill during the campaign, and had to have an appendectomy. This made it difficult for him to campaign, and a further setback was the internal division which continued to beset the Liberal Party. He came fourth in the poll for Dundee, losing to prohibitionist Edwin Scrymgeour. Churchill later quipped that he left Dundee "without an office, without a seat, without a party and without an appendix". He stood for the Liberals again in the 1923 general election, losing in Leicester.
In January 1924, the first Labour Government had taken office amid fears of threats to the Constitution. Churchill was noted at the time for being particularly hostile to socialism. He believed that the Labour Party as a socialist party, did not fully support the existing British Constitution. In March 1924, aged 49, he sought election at the Westminster Abbey by-election, 1924. He had originally sought the backing of the local Unionist association which happened to be called the Westminster Abbey Constitutional Association. He adopted the term 'Constitutionalist' to describe himself during the by-election campaign.
After the by-election Churchill continued to use the term and talked about setting up a Constitutionalist Party. Any plans that Churchill may have had to create a Constitutionalist Party were shelved with the calling of another general election. Churchill and 11 others decided to use the label Constitutionalist rather than Liberal or Unionist. He was returned at Epping against a Liberal and with the support of the Unionists. After the election the seven Constitutionalist candidates, including Churchill, who were elected did not act or vote as a group. When Churchill accepted the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Unionist government, the description 'Constitutionalist' never became more than a label adopted by individual parliamentary candidates in the early 1920s.
Rejoining the Conservative Party
Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924–29)
Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer oversaw Britain's disastrous return to the Gold Standard, which resulted in deflation, unemployment, and the miners' strike that led to the General Strike of 1926.
His decision, announced in the 1924 Budget, came after long consultation with various economists including John Maynard Keynes, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Otto Niemeyer and the board of the Bank of England. This decision prompted Keynes to write The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill, arguing that the return to the gold standard at the pre-war parity in 1925 (£1=$4.86) would lead to a world depression. However, the decision was generally popular and seen as 'sound economics' although it was opposed by Lord Beaverbrook and the Federation of British Industries.
Churchill later regarded this as the greatest mistake of his life; in discussions at the time with former Chancellor Reginald McKenna, Churchill acknowledged that the return to the gold standard and the resulting 'dear money' policy was economically bad. In those discussions he maintained the policy as fundamentally political—a return to the pre-war conditions in which he believed. In his speech on the Bill he said "I will tell you what it [the return to the Gold Standard] will shackle us to. It will shackle us to reality."
The return to the pre-war exchange rate and to the Gold Standard depressed industries. The most affected was the coal industry, already suffering from declining output as shipping switched to oil. As basic British industries like cotton came under more competition in export markets, the return to the pre-war exchange was estimated to add up to 10 percent in costs to the industry. In July 1925, a Commission of Inquiry reported generally favouring the miners position rather than that of the mine owners.
Baldwin, with Churchill's support proposed a subsidy to the industry while a Royal Commission prepared a further report. That Commission solved nothing and the miners' dispute led to the General Strike of 1926. Churchill edited the Government's newspaper, the British Gazette. Churchill was one of the more hawkish members of the Cabinet and recommended that the route of food convoys from the docks into London should be guarded by tanks, armoured cars and hidden machine guns. This was rejected by the Cabinet. Exaggerated accounts of Churchill's belligerency during the strike soon began to circulate. Immediately afterwards the New Statesman claimed that Churchill had been leader of a "war party" in the Cabinet and had wished to use military force against the strikers. He consulted the Attorney-General Sir Douglas Hogg, who advised that although he had a good case for Criminal libel, it would be inadvisable to have confidential Cabinet discussions aired in open court. Churchill agreed to let the matter drop.
Later economists, as well as people at the time, also criticised Churchill's budget measures. These were seen as assisting the generally prosperous rentier banking and salaried classes (to which Churchill and his associates generally belonged) at the expense of manufacturers and exporters which were known then to be suffering from imports and from competition in traditional export markets, and as paring the Armed Forces, and especially the Royal Navy, too heavily.
The Conservative government was defeated in the 1929 general election. Churchill did not seek election to the Conservative Business Committee, the official leadership of the Conservative MPs. Over the next two years, Churchill became estranged from Conservative leadership over the issues of protective tariffs and Indian Home Rule, by his political views and by his friendships with press barons, financiers and people whose character was seen as dubious. When Ramsay MacDonald formed the National Government in 1931, Churchill was not invited to join the Cabinet. He was at the low-point in his career, in a period known as "the wilderness years".
He spent much of the next few years concentrating on his writing, works including Marlborough: His Life and Times—a biography of his ancestor John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough—and A History of the English Speaking Peoples (though the latter was not published until well after the Second World War), Great Contemporaries and many newspaper articles and collections of speeches. He was one of the best paid writers of his time. His political views, set forth in his 1930 Romanes Lecture and published as Parliamentary Government and the Economic Problem (republished in 1932 in his collection of essays "Thoughts and Adventures") involved abandoning universal suffrage, a return to a property franchise, proportional representation for the major cities and an economic 'sub parliament'.
Churchill opposed Gandhi's peaceful disobedience revolt and the Indian Independence movement in the 1920s and 30s, arguing that the Round Table Conference "was a frightful prospect". Churchill brooked no moderation. "The truth is", he declared in 1930, "that Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for will have to be grappled with and crushed." In response to Gandhi's movement, Churchill proclaimed in 1920 that Gandhi should be bound hand and foot and crushed with an elephant ridden by the viceroy. Later reports indicate that Churchill favoured letting Gandhi die if he went on a hunger strike.
In speeches and press articles in this period, he forecast widespread unemployment in Britain and civil strife in India should independence be granted. The Viceroy, Lord Irwin, who had been appointed by the prior Conservative Government, engaged in the Round Table Conference in early 1931 and then announced the Government's policy that India should be granted Dominion Status. In this the Government was supported by the Liberal Party and, officially at least, by the Conservative Party. Churchill denounced the Round Table Conference.
At a meeting of the West Essex Conservative Association, specially convened so that Churchill could explain his position, he said "It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal palace ... to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor." He called the Indian National Congress leaders "Brahmins who mouth and patter principles of Western Liberalism".
Two incidents damaged Churchill's reputation within the Conservative Party in this period. Both were taken as attacks on the Conservative front bench. The first was his speech on the eve of the St George by-election in April 1931. In a safe Conservative seat, the official Conservative candidate Duff Cooper was opposed by an independent Conservative. The independent was supported by Lord Rothermere, Lord Beaverbrook and their respective newspapers. Although arranged before the by-election was set, Churchill's speech was seen as supporting the independent candidate and as a part of the press baron's campaign against Baldwin. Baldwin's position was strengthened when Duff Cooper won, and when the civil disobedience campaign in India ceased with the Gandhi-Irwin Pact.
The second issue was a claim by Churchill that Sir Samuel Hoare and Lord Derby had pressured the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to change evidence it had given to the Joint Select Committee considering the Government of India Bill, and in doing so had breached Parliamentary privilege. He had the matter referred to the House of Commons Privilege Committee which, after investigations in which Churchill gave evidence, reported to the House that there had been no breach. The report was debated on 13 June 1934. Churchill was unable to find a single supporter in the House and the debate ended without a division.
Churchill permanently broke with Stanley Baldwin over Indian independence and never again held any office while Baldwin was prime minister. Some historians see his basic attitude to India as being set out in his book My Early Life (1930). There has been debate over Churchill's alleged culpability in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indians during the Bengal famine of 1943 where London ate India’s bread while India starved, some commentators point to the disruption of the traditional marketing system and maladministration at the provincial level as a cause with Churchill saying that the famine was the Indians own fault for “breeding like rabbits".
Arthur Herman, author of Churchill and Gandhi, contends, 'The real cause was the fall of Burma to the Japanese, which cut off India's main supply of rice imports when domestic sources fell short ... [though] it is true that Churchill opposed diverting food supplies and transports from other theatres to India to cover the shortfall: this was wartime.' In response to an urgent request by the Secretary of State for India (Leo Amery) and Viceroy of India (Wavell), to release food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram to Wavell asking, if food was so scarce, "why Gandhi hadn't died yet". In July 1940, newly in office, he reportedly welcomed reports of the emerging conflict between the Muslim League and the Indian Congress, hoping "it would be bitter and bloody".
German and Italian rearmament and conflicts in Manchuria and Abyssinia
In the 1920s, Churchill supported the idea of a "reconciliation" between Germany and France with Britain serving as the "honest broker" for the reconciliation". Beginning in 1931, when he opposed those who advocated giving Germany the right to military parity with France, Churchill spoke often of the dangers of Germany's rearmament.
In 1931, Churchill said: "It is not in the immediate interest of European peace that the French Army should be seriously weakened. It is not in British interests to antagonize France". He later, particularly in The Gathering Storm, portrayed himself as being for a time, a lone voice calling on Britain to strengthen itself to counter the belligerence of Germany. However Lord Lloyd was the first to so agitate.
In 1932, Churchill accepted the presidency of the newly founded New Commonwealth Society, a peace organisation which he described in 1937 as "one of the few peace societies that advocates the use of force, if possible overwhelming force, to support public international law".
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Churchill's attitude towards the fascist dictators was ambiguous. After the First World War defeat of Germany, a new danger occupied conservatives' political consciousness—the spread of communism. A newspaper article penned by Churchill and published on 4 February 1920, had warned that "civilisation" was threatened by the Bolsheviks, a movement which he linked through historical precedence to Jewish conspiracy. He wrote in part:
This movement among Jews is not new ... but a "world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality."
In 1931, he warned against the League of Nations opposing the Japanese in Manchuria: "I hope we shall try in England to understand the position of Japan, an ancient state ... On the one side they have the dark menace of Soviet Russia. On the other the chaos of China, four or five provinces of which are being tortured under communist rule." In contemporary newspaper articles he referred to the Spanish Republican government as a communist front, and Franco's army as the "Anti-red movement." He supported the Hoare-Laval Pact and continued up until 1937 to praise Benito Mussolini. He regarded Mussolini's regime as a bulwark against the perceived threat of communist revolution, going as far (in 1933) as to call Mussolini the "Roman genius ... the greatest lawgiver among men." However, he stressed that the UK must stick with its tradition of Parliamentary democracy, not adopt fascism.
Speaking in the House of Commons in 1937, Churchill said, "I will not pretend that, if I had to choose between communism and Nazism, I would choose communism." In a 1935 essay, "Hitler and his Choice", which was republished in his 1937 book Great Contemporaries, Churchill expressed a hope that Hitler, if he so chose, and despite his rise to power through dictatorial action, hatred and cruelty, might yet "go down in history as the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the great Germanic nation and brought it back serene, helpful and strong to the forefront of the European family circle." His first major speech on defence on 7 February 1934 stressed the need to rebuild the Royal Air Force and to create a Ministry of Defence; his second, on 13 July urged a renewed role for the League of Nations. These three topics remained his themes until early 1936. In 1935, he was one of the founding members of The Focus, which brought together people of differing political backgrounds and occupations who were united in seeking "the defence of freedom and peace." The Focus led to the formation of the much wider Arms and the Covenant Movement in 1936.
Germany and rearmament, 1936
Churchill, holidaying in Spain when the Germans reoccupied the Rhineland in February 1936, returned to a divided Britain. The Labour opposition was adamant in opposing sanctions and the National Government was divided between advocates of economic sanctions and those who said that even these would lead to a humiliating backdown by Britain as France would not support any intervention. Churchill's speech on 9 March was measured, and praised by Neville Chamberlain as constructive. But within weeks Churchill was passed over for the post of Minister for Co-ordination of Defence in favour of Attorney General Sir Thomas Inskip. A. J. P. Taylor later called this "an appointment rightly described as the most extraordinary since Caligula made his horse a consul." At the time insiders were less worried: Duff Cooper was opposed to Churchill's appointment, whilst General Ellison wrote that he had "only one comment, and that is “Thank God we are preserved from Winston Churchill”".
On 22 May 1936, Churchill was present at a meeting of Old Guard Conservatives (the group, not all of them present on that occasion, included Austen Chamberlain, Geoffrey Lloyd, Leopold Amery and Robert Horne) at Lord Winterton’s house at Shillinglee Park, to push for greater rearmament. This meeting prompted Baldwin to comment that it was “the time of year when midges came out of dirty ditches”. Neville Chamberlain was also taking a growing interest in foreign affairs, and in June, as part of a power-bid at the expense of the young and pro-League of Nations Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, he demanded an end to sanctions against Italy (“the very midsummer of madness”).
In June 1936, Churchill organised a deputation of senior Conservatives to see Baldwin, Inskip and Halifax. There had been demands for a Secret Session of the House and the senior ministers agreed to meet the deputation rather than listen to a potential four-hour speech by Churchill. He had tried to have delegates from the other two parties and later wrote, "If the leaders of the Labour and Liberal oppositions had come with us there might have been a political situation so intense as to enforce remedial action." Rhodes James writes that this is “not quite the impression” given by the documentary record of the meetings of 28–29 July, and another meeting in November. Churchill's figures for the size of the Luftwaffe, leaked to him by Ralph Wigram at the Foreign Office, were less accurate than those of the Air Ministry and he believed that the Germans were preparing to unleash thermite bombs “the size of an orange” on London. Ministers stressed that Hitler's intentions were unclear, and the importance of maximising Britain’s long-term economic strength through exports, whereas Churchill wanted 25-30% of British industry to be brought under state control for purposes of rearmament. Baldwin argued that the important thing had been to win the election to get “a perfectly free hand” for rearmament. The meeting ended with Baldwin agreeing with Churchill that rearmament was vital to deter Germany.
On 12 November, Churchill returned to the topic. Speaking in the Address in Reply debate, after giving some specific instances of Germany's war preparedness, he said "The Government simply cannot make up their mind or they cannot get the Prime Minister to make up his mind. So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful for impotency. And so we go on preparing more months more years precious perhaps vital for the greatness of Britain for the locusts to eat." Robert Rhodes James called this one of Churchill's most brilliant speeches during this period, Baldwin's reply sounding weak and disturbing the House. The exchange gave new encouragement to the Arms and the Covenant Movement.
In June 1936, Walter Monckton told Churchill that the rumours that King Edward VIII intended to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson were true. Churchill then advised against the marriage and said he regarded Mrs Simpson's existing marriage as a 'safeguard'.
In November, he declined Lord Salisbury's invitation to be part of a delegation of senior Conservative backbenchers who met with Baldwin to discuss the matter. On 25 November he, Attlee and Liberal Party leader Archibald Sinclair met with Baldwin, were told officially of the King's intention, and asked whether they would form an administration if Baldwin and the National Government resigned should the King not take the Ministry's advice. Both Attlee and Sinclair said they would not take office if invited to do so. Churchill's reply was that his attitude was a little different but he would support the government.
The Abdication crisis became public, coming to a head in the first two weeks of December 1936. At this time, Churchill publicly gave his support to the King. The first public meeting of the Arms and the Covenant Movement was on 3 December. Churchill was a major speaker and later wrote that in replying to the Vote of Thanks, he made a declaration 'on the spur of the moment' asking for delay before any decision was made by either the King or his Cabinet. Later that night Churchill saw the draft of the King's proposed wireless broadcast and spoke with Beaverbrook and the King's solicitor about it. On 4 December, he met with the King and again urged delay in any decision about abdication. On 5 December, he issued a lengthy statement implying that the Ministry was applying unconstitutional pressure on the King to force him to make a hasty decision. On 7 December, he tried to address the Commons to plead for delay. He was shouted down. Seemingly staggered by the unanimous hostility of all Members, he left.
Churchill's reputation in Parliament and England as a whole was badly damaged. Some such as Alistair Cooke saw him as trying to build a King's Party. Others like Harold Macmillan were dismayed by the damage Churchill's support for the King had done to the Arms and the Covenant Movement. Churchill himself later wrote "I was myself so smitten in public opinion that it was the almost universal view that my political life was at last ended." Historians are divided about Churchill's motives in his support for Edward VIII. Some such as A. J. P. Taylor see it as being an attempt to 'overthrow the government of feeble men'. Others, such as R. R. James, view Churchill's motives as honourable and disinterested, in that he felt deeply for the King.
Return from exile
Churchill later sought to portray himself as an isolated voice warning of the need to rearm against Germany. While it is true that he had a small following in the House of Commons during much of the 1930s, he was given privileged information by some elements within the Government, particularly by disaffected civil servants in the War Ministry and Foreign Office. The "Churchill group" in the latter half of the decade consisted of only himself, Duncan Sandys and Brendan Bracken. It was isolated from the other main factions within the Conservative Party pressing for faster rearmament and a stronger foreign policy; one meeting of anti-Chamberlain forces decided that Churchill would make a good Minister of Supply.
Even during the time Churchill was campaigning against Indian independence, he received official and otherwise secret information. From 1932, Churchill's neighbour, Major Desmond Morton, with Ramsay MacDonald's approval, gave Churchill information on German air power. From 1930 onward Morton headed a department of the Committee of Imperial Defence charged with researching the defence preparedness of other nations. Lord Swinton, as Secretary of State for Air, and with Baldwin's approval, in 1934 gave Churchill access to official and otherwise secret information.
Swinton did so, knowing Churchill would remain a critic of the government, but believing that an informed critic was better than one relying on rumour and hearsay. Churchill was a fierce critic of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler and in private letters to Lloyd George (13 August) and Lord Moyne (11 September) just before the Munich Agreement, he wrote that the government were faced with a choice between "war and shame" and that having chosen shame would later get war on less favourable terms.
First term as prime minister (1940–45)
Return to the Admiralty
On 3 September 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany following the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, the same position he had held during the first part of the First World War. As such he was a member of Chamberlain's small War Cabinet.
In this position, he proved to be one of the highest-profile ministers during the so-called "Phoney War", when the only noticeable action was at sea and the USSR's attack on Finland. Churchill planned to penetrate the Baltic with a naval force. This was soon changed to a plan involving the mining of Norwegian waters to stop iron ore shipments from Narvik and provoke Germany into attacking Norway, where it could be defeated by the Royal Navy. However, Chamberlain and the rest of the War Cabinet disagreed, and the start of the mining plan, Operation Wilfred, was delayed until 8 April 1940, a day before the successful German invasion of Norway.
"We shall never surrender"
On 10 May 1940, hours before the German invasion of France by a lightning advance through the Low Countries, it became clear that, following failure in Norway, the country had no confidence in Chamberlain's prosecution of the war and so Chamberlain resigned. The commonly accepted version of events states that Lord Halifax turned down the post of prime minister because he believed he could not govern effectively as a member of the House of Lords instead of the House of Commons. Although the prime minister does not traditionally advise the King on the former's successor, Chamberlain wanted someone who would command the support of all three major parties in the House of Commons. A meeting between Chamberlain, Halifax, Churchill and David Margesson, the government Chief Whip, led to the recommendation of Churchill, and, as constitutional monarch, George VI asked Churchill to be prime minister. Churchill's first act was to write to Chamberlain to thank him for his support.
In June 1940, to encourage the neutral Irish state to join with the Allies, Churchill indicated to the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera that the United Kingdom would push for Irish unity, but, apparently believing that Churchill could not or would not deliver, de Valera declined the offer.
The British did not inform the Government of Northern Ireland that they had made the offer to the Dublin government, and de Valera's rejection was not publicised until 1970.
Churchill was still unpopular among many Conservatives and the Establishment, who opposed his replacing Chamberlain; the former prime minister remained party leader until dying in November. Churchill 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. An American visitor reported in late 1940 that, "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."
An element of British public and political sentiment favoured a negotiated peace with Germany, among them Halifax as Foreign Secretary. Over three days in May (26-28 May 1940), there were repeated discussions within the War Cabinet of whether the UK should associate itself with French approaches to Mussolini to use his good offices with Hitler to seek a negotiated peace: they terminated in refusal to do so. Various interpretations are possible of this episode and of Churchill's argument that "it was idle to think that, if we tried to make peace now, we should get better terms than if we fought it out", but throughout Churchill seems to have opposed any immediate peace negotiations. Although at times personally pessimistic about Britain's chances for victory—Churchill told Hastings Ismay on 12 June 1940 that "[y]ou and I will be dead in three months' time"—his use of rhetoric hardened public opinion against a peaceful resolution and prepared the British for a long war.
Coining the general term for the upcoming battle, Churchill stated in his "finest hour" speech to the House of Commons on 18 June, "I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin." By refusing an armistice with Germany, Churchill kept resistance alive in the British Empire and created the basis for the later Allied counter-attacks of 1942–45, with Britain serving as a platform for the supply of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Western Europe.
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. He immediately put his friend and confidant, industrialist and newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook, in charge of aircraft production. It was Beaverbrook's business acumen that allowed Britain to quickly gear up aircraft production and engineering, which eventually made the difference in the war.
The war energised Churchill, who was 65 years old when he became Prime Minister. An American journalist wrote in 1941: "The responsibilities which are his now must be greater than those carried by any other human being on earth. One would think such a weight would have a crushing effect upon him. Not at all. The last time I saw him, while the Battle of Britain was still raging, he looked twenty years younger than before the war began ... His uplifted spirit is transmitted to the people". Churchill's speeches were a great inspiration to the embattled British. His first as prime minister was the famous, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech. One historian has called its effect on Parliament as "electrifying". The House of Commons that had ignored him during the 1930s "was now listening, and cheering". Churchill followed that closely with two other equally famous ones, given just before the Battle of Britain. One included the words:
... 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.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour'.
At the height of the Battle of Britain, his bracing survey of the situation included the memorable line "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few", which engendered the enduring nickname The Few for the RAF fighter pilots who won it. He first spoke these famous words upon his exit from No. 11 Group's underground bunker at RAF Uxbridge, now known as the Battle of Britain Bunker on 16 August 1940. One of his most memorable war speeches came on 10 November 1942 at the Lord Mayor's Luncheon at Mansion House in London, in response to the Allied victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein. Churchill stated:
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Without having much in the way of sustenance or good news to offer the British people, he took a risk in deliberately choosing to emphasise the dangers instead. "Rhetorical power", wrote Churchill, "is neither wholly bestowed, nor wholly acquired, but cultivated." Not all were impressed by his oratory. Robert Menzies, Australian Prime Minister, said of Churchill during the Second World War: "His real tyrant is the glittering phrase so attractive to his mind that awkward facts have to give way." Another associate wrote: "He is ... the slave of the words which his mind forms about ideas ... And he can convince himself of almost every truth if it is once allowed thus to start on its wild career through his rhetorical machinery."
Mental and physical health
Since the appearance in 1966 of Lord Moran's memoir of his years as Churchill's doctor, with its claim that "Black Dog" was the name Churchill gave to "the prolonged fits of depression from which he suffered", many authors have suggested that throughout his life Churchill was a victim of, or at risk from, clinical depression. Formulated in this way, Churchill's mental health history contains unmistakable echoes of the seminal interpretation of Lord Moran's Black Dog revelations made by Dr Anthony Storr.
In drawing so heavily on Moran for what he took to be the latter's totally reliable, first-hand clinical evidence of Churchill's lifelong struggle with "prolonged and recurrent depression" and its associated "despair", Storr produced a seemingly authoritative and persuasive diagnostic essay that, in the words of John Ramsden, "strongly influenced all later accounts."
However, Storr was not aware that Moran, as Moran's biographer Professor Richard Lovell has shown and contrary to the impression created in Moran's book, kept no diary, in the dictionary sense of the word, during his years as Churchill's doctor. Nor was Storr aware that Moran's book as published was a much rewritten account which mixed together Moran's contemporaneous jottings with later material acquired from other sources.
As Wilfred Attenborough demonstrated, the key Black Dog 'diary' entry for 14 August 1944 was an arbitrarily dated pastiche in which the explicit reference to Black Dog — the first of the few in the book (with an associated footnote definition of the term)—was taken, not from anything Churchill had said to Moran, but from much later claims made to Moran by Bracken in 1958. Although seemingly unnoticed by Dr Storr and those he influenced, Moran later on in his book retracts his earlier suggestion, also derived from Brendan Bracken, that, towards the end of the Second World War, Churchill was succumbing to "the inborn melancholia of the Churchill blood"; also unnoticed by Storr et al., Moran, in his final chapter, states that Churchill, before the start of the First World War, "had managed to extirpate bouts of depression from his system".
Despite the difficulties with Moran's book, the many illustrations it provides of a Churchill understandably plunged into temporary low mood by military defeats and other severely adverse developments constitute a compelling portrait of a great man reacting to, but not significantly impeded by, worry and overstrain, a compelling portrait that is entirely consistent with the portraits of others who worked closely with Churchill. Churchill did not receive medication for depression—the amphetamine that Moran prescribed for special occasions, especially for big speeches from the autumn of 1953 onwards, was to combat the effects of Churchill's stroke of that year.
Churchill himself seems, in a long life, to have written about Black Dog on one occasion only: the reference, a backward-looking one, occurs in a private handwritten letter to Clementine Churchill dated July 1911 which reports the successful treatment of a relative's depression by a doctor in Germany. His ministerial circumstances at that date, the very limited treatments available for serious depression pre-1911, the fact of the relative's being "complete cured", and, not least, the evident deep interest Churchill took in the fact of the complete cure, can be shown to point to Churchill's pre-1911 Black Dog depression's having been a form of mild (i.e. non-psychotic) anxiety-depression, as that term is defined by Professor Edward Shorter.
Moran himself leaned strongly in the direction of his patient's being "by nature very apprehensive"; close associates of Churchill have disputed the idea that apprehension was a defining feature of Churchill's temperament, although they readily concede that he was noticeably worried and anxious about some matters, especially in the buildup to important speeches in the House of Commons and elsewhere. Churchill himself all but openly acknowledged in his book Painting as a Pastime that he was prey to the "worry and mental overstrain [experienced] by persons who, over prolonged periods, have to bear exceptional responsibilities and discharge duties upon a very large scale". The fact that he found a remedy in painting and bricklaying is a strong indicator that the condition as he defined it did not amount to 'clinical depression', certainly not as that term was understood during the lifetimes of himself and Lord Moran.
According to Lord Moran, during the war years Churchill sought solace in his tumbler of whisky and soda and his cigar. Churchill was also a very emotional man, unafraid to shed tears when appropriate. During some of his broadcast speeches it was noticed that he was trying to hold back the tears. Nevertheless, although the fall of Tobruk was, by Churchill's own account "one of the heaviest blows" he received during the war, there seem to have been no tears. Certainly, the next day Moran found him animated and vigorous. Field Marshal Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, who had been present when President Roosevelt broke the news of the tragedy to Churchill, focused afterwards in his diary on the superbly well judged manner in which the President made his offer of immediate military assistance, despite Alanbrooke's being ever ready to highlight what he perceived to be Churchill's contradictory motivations and flawed character during the war. For example, in his diary entry for 10 September 1944:
... And the wonderful thing is that 3/4 of the population of the world imagine that Churchill is one of the Strategists of History, a second Marlborough, and the other 1/4 have no idea what a public menace he is and has been throughout this war! It is far better that the world should never know, and never suspect the feet of clay of this otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again ... Never have I admired and despised a man simultaneously to the same extent. Never have such opposite extremes been combined in the same human being.
Churchill's physical health became more fragile during the war, as shown by a mild heart attack he suffered in December 1941 at the White House and also in December 1943 when he contracted pneumonia. Despite this, he travelled over 100,000 miles (160,000 km) throughout the war to meet other national leaders. For security, he usually travelled using the alias Colonel Warden.
Relations with the United States
Churchill's good relationship with United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt—between 1939 and 1945 they exchanged an estimated 1700 letters and telegrams and met 11 times; Churchill estimated that they had 120 days of close personal contact—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 immediately set about implementing a new method of providing military hardware and shipping to Britain without the need for monetary payment. Roosevelt persuaded Congress that repayment for this immensely costly service would take the form of defending the US; and so Lend-Lease was born. Churchill had 12 strategic conferences with Roosevelt which covered the Atlantic Charter, Europe first strategy, the Declaration by the United Nations and other war policies. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Churchill's first thought in anticipation of US help was, "We have won the war!"
On 26 December 1941, Churchill addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress, asking of Germany and Japan, "What kind of people do they think we are?" Churchill initiated the Special Operations Executive (SOE) under Hugh Dalton's Ministry of Economic Warfare, which established, conducted and fostered covert, subversive and partisan operations in occupied territories with notable success; and also the Commandos which established the pattern for most of the world's current Special Forces. The Russians referred to him as the "British Bulldog."
Churchill was party to treaties that would redraw post-Second World War European and Asian boundaries. These were discussed as early as 1943. At the Second Quebec Conference in 1944 he drafted and, together with Roosevelt, signed a less-harsh version of the original Morgenthau Plan, in which they pledged to convert Germany after its unconditional surrender "into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character." Proposals for European boundaries and settlements were officially agreed to by President Harry S. Truman, Churchill, and Joseph Stalin at Potsdam. Churchill's strong relationship with Harry Truman was of great significance to both countries. While he clearly regretted the loss of his close friend and counterpart Roosevelt, Churchill was enormously supportive of Truman in his first days in office, calling him, "the type of leader the world needs when it needs him most."
Relations with the Soviet Union
When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, Winston Churchill, a vehement anti-communist, famously stated "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons", regarding his policy towards Stalin. Soon, British supplies and tanks were being sent to help the Soviet Union.
The Casablanca Conference, a meeting of Allied powers held in Casablanca, Morocco, on 14 January through 23 January 1943, produced what was to be known as the "Casablanca Declaration". In attendance were Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle. Joseph Stalin had bowed out, citing the need for his presence in the Soviet Union to attend to the Stalingrad crisis. It was in Casablanca that the Allies made a unified commitment to continue the war through to the "unconditional surrender" of the Axis powers. In private, however, Churchill did not fully subscribe to the doctrine of "unconditional surrender", and was taken by surprise when Franklin Roosevelt announced this to the world as Allied consensus.
The settlement concerning the borders of Poland, that is, the boundary between Poland and the Soviet Union and between Germany and Poland, was viewed as a betrayal in Poland during the post-war years, as it was established against the views of the Polish government in exile. It was Winston Churchill, who tried to motivate Mikołajczyk, who was prime minister of the Polish government in exile, to accept Stalin's wishes, but Mikołajczyk refused. Churchill was convinced that the only way to alleviate tensions between the two populations was the transfer of people, to match the national borders.
As he expounded in the House of 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." However, the resulting expulsions of Germans were carried out in a way which resulted in much hardship and, according to a 1966 report by the West German Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons, over 2.1 million Germans dead or missing. Churchill opposed the Soviet domination of Poland and wrote bitterly about it in his books, but was unable to prevent it at the conferences.
During October 1944, he and Eden were in Moscow to meet with the Russian leadership. At this point, Russian forces were beginning to advance into various eastern European countries. Churchill held the view that until everything was formally and properly worked out at the Yalta conference, there had to be a temporary, war-time, working agreement with regard to who would run what. The most significant of these meetings was held on 9 October 1944 in the Kremlin between Churchill and Stalin. During the meeting, Poland and the Balkan problems were discussed. Churchill told Stalin:
Let us settle about our affairs in the Balkans. Your armies are in Rumania and Bulgaria. We have interests, missions, and agents there. Don't let us get at cross-purposes in small ways. So far as Britain and Russia are concerned, how would it do for you to have ninety per cent predominance in Rumania, for us to have ninety per cent of the say in Greece, and go fifty–fifty about Yugoslavia?
Stalin agreed to this Percentages agreement, ticking a piece of paper as he heard the translation. In 1958, five years after the account of this meeting was published (in The Second World War), authorities of the Soviet Union denied that Stalin accepted the "imperialist proposal".
One of the conclusions of the Yalta Conference was that the Allies would return all Soviet citizens that found themselves in the Allied zone to the Soviet Union. This immediately affected the Soviet prisoners of war liberated by the Allies, but was also extended to all Eastern European refugees. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called the Operation Keelhaul "the last secret" of the Second World War. The operation decided the fate of up to two million post-war refugees fleeing eastern Europe.
Dresden bombings controversy
Between 13–15 February 1945, British and US bombers attacked the German city of Dresden, which was crowded with German wounded and refugees. There were an unknown number of refugees in Dresden, so historians Matthias Neutzner, Götz Bergander and Frederick Taylor have used historical sources and deductive reasoning to estimate that the number of refugees in the city and surrounding suburbs was around 200,000 or less on the first night of the bombing. Because of the cultural importance of the city, and of the number of civilian casualties close to the end of the war, this remains one of the most controversial Western Allied actions of the war. Following the bombing Churchill stated in a top-secret telegram:
It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed ... I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives such as oil and communications behind the immediate battle-zone, rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive.
On reflection, under pressure from the Chiefs of Staff, and in response to the views expressed by Sir Charles Portal (Chief of the Air Staff) and Sir Arthur Harris (AOC-in-C of RAF Bomber Command), among others, Churchill withdrew his memo and issued a new one. This final version of the memo completed on 1 April 1945, stated:
It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called 'area-bombing' of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests. If we come into control of an entirely ruined land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for ourselves and our allies ... We must see to it that our attacks do no more harm to ourselves in the long run than they do to the enemy's war effort.
Ultimately, responsibility for the British part of the attack lay with Churchill, which is why he has been criticised for allowing the bombings to occur. German historian Jörg Friedrich claims that Churchill's decision was a "war crime", and, writing in 2006, philosopher A.C. Grayling questioned the whole strategic bombing campaign by the RAF, presenting the argument that although it was not a war crime it was a moral crime that undermines the Allies' contention that they fought a just war.
On the other hand, it has been asserted that Churchill's involvement in the bombing of Dresden was based on strategic and tactical aspects of winning the war. The destruction of Dresden, while immense, was designed to expedite the defeat of Germany. As historian and journalist Max Hastings wrote in an article subtitled "the Allied Bombing of Dresden": "I believe it is wrong to describe strategic bombing as a war crime, for this might be held to suggest some moral equivalence with the deeds of the Nazis. Bombing represented a sincere, albeit mistaken, attempt to bring about Germany's military defeat." British historian Frederick Taylor asserts that "All sides bombed each other's cities during the war. Half a million Soviet citizens, for example, died from German bombing during the invasion and occupation of Russia. That's roughly equivalent to the number of German citizens who died from Allied raids."
End of the Second World War
In June 1944, the Allied Forces invaded Normandy and pushed the Nazi forces back into Germany on a broad front over the coming year. After being attacked on three fronts by the Allies, and in spite of Allied failures, such as Operation Market Garden, and German counter-attacks, including the Battle of the Bulge, Germany was eventually defeated. On 7 May 1945 at the SHAEF headquarters in Rheims the Allies accepted Germany's surrender. On the same day in a BBC news flash John Snagge announced that 8 May would be Victory in Europe Day. On Victory in Europe Day, Churchill broadcast to the nation that Germany had surrendered and that a final cease fire on all fronts in Europe would come into effect at one minute past midnight that night.
Afterwards, Churchill told a huge crowd in Whitehall: "This is your victory." The people shouted: "No, it is yours", and Churchill then conducted them in the singing of "Land of Hope and Glory". In the evening he made another broadcast to the nation asserting the defeat of Japan in the coming months. The Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945.
As Europe celebrated peace at the end of six years of war, Churchill was concerned with the possibility that the celebrations would soon be brutally interrupted. He concluded the UK and the US must anticipate the Red Army ignoring previously agreed frontiers and agreements in Europe, and prepare to "impose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire." According to the Operation Unthinkable plan ordered by Churchill and developed by the British Armed Forces, the Third World War could have started on 1 July 1945 with a sudden attack against the allied Soviet troops. The plan was rejected by the British Chiefs of Staff Committee as militarily unfeasible.
Soon after VE day there came a dispute with Britain over French mandates Syria and Lebanon known as the Levant which quickly developed into a major diplomatic incident. In May, de Gaulle sent more French troops to re-establish their presence provoking an outbreak of nationalism.
On 20 May, French troops opened fire on demonstrators in Damascus with artillery and dropped bombs from the air. Finally, on 31 May, with the death toll exceeding a thousand Syrians, Churchill decided to act and sent de Gaulle an ultimatum saying, "In order to avoid a collision between British and French forces, we request you immediately to order French troops to cease fire and withdraw to their barracks". This was ignored by both de Gaulle and the French forces and thus Churchill ordered British troops and armoured cars under General Bernard Paget to invade Syria from nearby Transjordan. The invasion went ahead and the British swiftly moved in cutting the French General Fernand Oliva-Roget's telephone line with his base at Beirut. Eventually, heavily outnumbered, Oliva-Roget ordered his men back to their bases near the coast who were then escorted by the British. A furious row then broke out between Britain and France.
Churchill's relationship with de Gaulle was at this time rock bottom in spite of his efforts to preserve French interests at Yalta and a visit to Paris the previous year. In January he told a colleague that he believed that de Gaulle was "a great danger to peace and for Great Britain. After five years of experience, I am convinced that he is the worst enemy of France in her troubles ... he is one of the greatest dangers to European peace.... I am sure that in the long run no understanding will be reached with General de Gaulle". In France, there were accusations that Britain had armed the demonstrators and de Gaulle raged against 'Churchill's ultimatum', saying that "the whole thing stank of oil".
In opposition, 1945–51
Caretaker government and 1945 election
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. 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.
Although polling day was 5 July, the results of the 1945 election did not become known until 26 July, owing to the need to collect the votes of those serving overseas. Clementine, who together with his daughter Mary had been at the count at Churchill's constituency in Essex (although unopposed by the major parties, Churchill had been returned with a much-reduced majority against an independent candidate) returned to meet her husband for lunch. To her suggestion that election defeat might be "a blessing in disguise" he 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 support amongst the British population, he resigned as Prime Minister that evening, this time handing over to a Labour Government. Many reasons for his 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.
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". However, contrary to expectations, Churchill did not hand over the Conservative leadership to Anthony Eden, who became his deputy but who was disinclined to challenge his leadership. It would be another decade before Churchill finally did hand over the reins.
For six years he was to serve as the Leader of the Opposition. During these years Churchill continued to influence world affairs. During his 1946 trip to the United States, Churchill famously lost a lot of money in a poker game with Harry Truman and his advisors.
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.
Churchill's doctor Lord Moran later (in his book The Struggle for Survival) recalled Churchill suggesting in 1946—the year before he put the idea (unsuccessfully) in a memo to President Truman—that the United States make a pre-emptive atomic bomb attack on Moscow while the Soviet Union did not yet possess nuclear weapons.
In parliament on 5 June 1946, three days before the London Victory Parade, Churchill said he 'deeply' regretted that:
none of the Polish troops, and I must say this, who fought with us on a score of battlefields, who poured out their blood in the common cause, are not to be allowed to march in the Victory Parade... The fate of Poland seems to be unending tragedy and we who went to war all ill-prepared on her behalf watch with sorrow the strange outcome of our endeavours.
Churchill told the Irish Ambassador to London in 1946, "I said a few words in parliament the other day about your country because I still hope for a united Ireland. You must get those fellows in the north in, though; you can't do it by force. There is not, and never was, any bitterness in my heart towards your country." He later said "You know I have had many invitations to visit Ulster but I have refused them all. I don't want to go there at all, I would much rather go to southern Ireland. Maybe I'll buy another horse with an entry in the Irish Derby."
He continued to lead his party after losing the 1950 general election.
In the summer of 1930, inspired by the ideas being floated by Aristide Briand and by his recent tour of the US in the autumn of 1929, Churchill wrote an article lamenting the instability which had been caused by the independence of Poland and the disintegration of Austria-Hungary into petty states, and called for a "United States of Europe", although he wrote that Britain was "with Europe but not of it".
Ideas about closer European union continued to circulate, driven by Paul-Henri Spaak, from 1942 onwards. As early as March 1943 a Churchill speech on postwar reconstruction annoyed the US administration not only by not mentioning China as a great power but by proposing a purely European "Council of Europe". Harry Hopkins passed on President Roosevelt's concerns, warning Eden that it would "give free ammunition to (US) isolationists" who might propose an American "regional council". Churchill urged Eden, on a visit to the US at the time, to "listen politely" but give "no countenance" to Roosevelt's proposals for the US, UK, USSR and Chiang Kai-shek's China to act together to enforce "Global Collective Security" with the Japanese and French Empires taken into international trusteeship.
Now out of office, Churchill gave a speech at Zurich on 19 September 1946 in which he called for "a kind of United States of Europe" centred around a Franco-German partnership, with Britain and the Commonwealth, and perhaps the US, as "friends and sponsors of the new Europe". The Times wrote of him "startling the world" with "outrageous propositions" and warned that there was as yet little appetite for such unity, and that he appeared to be assuming a permanent division between Eastern and Western Europe, and urged "more humdrum" economic agreements. Churchill's speech was praised by Leo Amery and by Count Coudenhove-Kalergi who wrote that it would galvanise governments into action.
Churchill expressed similar sentiments at a meeting of the Primrose League at the Albert Hall on 18 May 1947. He declared "let Europe arise" but was "absolutely clear" that "we shall allow no wedge to be driven between Britain and the United States". Churchill's speeches helped to encourage the foundation of the Council of Europe.
In June 1950, Churchill was strongly critical of the Attlee Government's failure to send British representatives to Paris (to discuss the Schuman Plan for setting up the European Coal and Steel Community), declaring that les absents ont toujours tort and calling it "a squalid attitude" which "derange(d) the balance of Europe", and risked Germany dominating the new grouping. He called for world unity through the UN (against the backdrop of the communist invasion of South Korea), whilst stressing that Britain was uniquely placed to exert leadership through her links to the Commonwealth, the US and Europe. However, Churchill did not want Britain to actually join any federal grouping. In September 1951 a declaration of the American, French and British foreign ministers welcomed the Schuman plan, stressing that it would revive economic growth and encourage the development of a democratic Germany, part of the Atlantic community.
After returning as Prime Minister, Churchill issued a note for the Cabinet on 29 November 1951. He listed British Foreign Policy priorities as Commonwealth unity and consolidation, "fraternal association" of the English-speaking world (i.e. the Commonwealth and the US), then thirdly "United Europe, to which we are a closely—and specially-related ally and friend … (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".
In 1956, after retiring as Prime Minister, Churchill went to Aachen to receive the Charlemagne Prize for his contribution to European Unity. Churchill is today listed as one of the "Founding fathers of the European Union".
In July 1962 Field-Marshal Montgomery told the press that the aged Churchill, whom he had just visited in hospital where he was being treated for a broken hip, was opposed to Macmillan’s negotiations for Britain to enter the EEC (which would, in the event, be vetoed by the French President, General de Gaulle, the following January). Churchill told his granddaughter, Edwina, that Montgomery's behaviour in leaking a private conversation was “monstrous”.
Second term as prime minister (1951–55)
Return to government
After the general election of October 1951, Churchill again became prime minister, and his second government lasted until his resignation in April 1955. He also held the office of Minister of Defence from October 1951 until 1 March 1952, when he handed the portfolio to Field Marshal Alexander.
In domestic affairs, various reforms were introduced such as the Mines and Quarries Act of 1954 and the Housing Repairs and Rent Act of 1955. The former measure consolidated legislation dealing with the employment of young persons and women in mines and quarries, together with safety, health, and welfare. The latter measure extended previous housing Acts, and set out details in defining housing units as "unfit for human habitation."
Tax allowances were raised, as well, construction of council housing accelerated, and pensions and national assistance benefits were increased. Controversially, however, charges for prescription medicines were introduced.
Housing was an issue the Conservatives were widely recognised to have made their own, after the Churchill government of the early 1950s, with Harold Macmillan as Minister for Housing, gave housing construction far higher political priority than it had received under the Attlee administration (where housing had been attached to the portfolio of Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, whose attention was concentrated on his responsibilities for the National Health Service). Macmillan had accepted Churchill's challenge to meet the latter's ambitious public commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year, and achieved the target a year ahead of schedule.
Kenya and Malaya
Churchill's domestic priorities in his last government were overshadowed by a series of foreign policy crises, which were partly the result of the continued decline of British military and imperial prestige and power. Being a strong proponent of Britain as an international power, Churchill would often meet such moments with direct action. One example was his dispatch of British troops to Kenya to deal with the Mau Mau rebellion. Trying to retain what he could of the Empire, he once stated that, "I will not preside over a dismemberment."
This was followed by events which became known as the Malayan Emergency. In Malaya, a rebellion against British rule had been in progress since 1948. Once again, Churchill's government inherited a crisis, and Churchill chose to use direct military action against those in rebellion while attempting to build an alliance with those who were not. While the rebellion was slowly being defeated, it was equally clear that colonial rule from Britain was no longer sustainable.
Relations with the US and the quest for a summit
In the early 1950s Britain was still attempting to remain a third major power on the world stage. This was "the time when Britain stood up to the United States as strongly as she was ever to do in the postwar world". However, Churchill devoted much of his time in office to Anglo-American relations and attempted to maintain the Special Relationship. He made four official transatlantic visits to America during his second term as prime minister.
Churchill and Eden visited Washington in January 1952. The Truman Administration was supporting the plans for a European Defence Community (EDC), hoping that this would allow controlled West German rearmament and enable American troop reductions. Churchill affected to believe that the proposed EDC would not work, scoffing at the supposed difficulties of language. Churchill asked in vain for a US military commitment to support Britain's position in Egypt and Middle East (where the Truman Administration had recently pressured Attlee not to intervene against Mossadeq in Iran); this did not meet with American approval—the US expected British support to fight communism in Korea, but saw any US commitment to the Middle East as supporting British imperialism, and were unpersuaded that this would help prevent pro-Soviet regimes from coming to power.
After Stalin's death, Churchill, the last of the wartime Big Three, wrote to Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had just assumed office as US President, on 11 March proposing a summit meeting with the Soviets; Eisenhower wrote back pouring cold water on the suggestions as the Soviets might use it for propaganda.
Some of Churchill's colleagues hoped that he might retire after the Queen's Coronation in May 1953. Eden wrote to his son on 10 April "W gets daily older & is apt to ... waste a great deal of time ... the outside world has little idea how difficult that becomes. Please make me retire before I am 80!" However, Eden's serious illness (he nearly died after a series of botched operations on his bile duct) allowed Churchill to take control of foreign affairs from April 1953.
After further discouragement from President Eisenhower (this was the McCarthy era in the US, in which Secretary of State Dulles took a Manichean view of the Cold War), Churchill announced his plans in the House of Commons on 11 May. The US Embassy in London noted that this was a rare occasion on which Churchill did not mention Anglo-American solidarity in a speech. Ministers like Lord Salisbury (acting Foreign Secretary) and Nutting were concerned at the irritation caused to the Americans and the French, although Selwyn Lloyd supported Churchill's initiative, as did most Conservatives. In his diary a year later, Eden wrote of Churchill's actions with fury.
Stroke and resignation
Churchill had suffered a mild stroke while on holiday in the south of France in the summer of 1949. By the time he formed his next government he was slowing down noticeably enough for George VI, as early as December 1951, to consider inviting Churchill to retire in the following year in favour of Anthony Eden, but it is not recorded if the king made that approach before his own death in February 1952.
The strain of carrying the Premiership and Foreign Office contributed to his second stroke at 10 Downing Street after dinner on the evening of 23 June 1953. Despite being partially paralysed down one side, he presided over a Cabinet meeting the next morning without anybody noticing his incapacity. Thereafter his condition deteriorated, and it was thought that he might not survive the weekend. Had Eden been fit, Churchill's premiership would most likely have been over. News of this was kept from the public and from Parliament, who were told that Churchill was suffering from exhaustion. He went to his country home, Chartwell, to recuperate, and by the end of June he astonished his doctors by being able, dripping with perspiration, to lift himself upright from his chair. He joked that news of his illness had chased the trial of the serial killer John Christie off the front pages.
Churchill was still keen to pursue a meeting with the Soviets and was open to the idea of a reunified Germany. He refused to condemn the Soviet crushing of East Germany, commenting on 10 July 1953 that "The Russians were surprisingly patient about the disturbances in East Germany". He thought this might have been the reason for the removal of Beria. Churchill returned to public life in October 1953 to make a speech at the Conservative Party conference at Margate. In December 1953 Churchill met Eisenhower in Bermuda.
Churchill was cross about friction between Eden and Dulles (June 1954). On the trip home from another Anglo-American conference, the diplomat Pierson Dixon compared US actions in Guatemala to Soviet policy in Korea and Greece, causing Churchill to retort that Guatemala was a "bloody place" he'd "never heard of". Churchill was still keen for a trip to Moscow, and threatened to resign, provoking a crisis in the Cabinet when Lord Salisbury threatened to resign if Churchill had his way. In the end the Soviets proposed a five power conference, which did not meet until after Churchill had retired. By the autumn Churchill was again postponing his resignation.
Eden, now partly recovered from his operations, became a major figure on the world stage in 1954, helping to negotiate peace in Indo-China, an agreement with Egypt and to broker an agreement between the countries of Western Europe after the French rejection of the EDC. Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally, Churchill at last retired as prime minister in 1955 and was succeeded by Anthony Eden. At the time of his departure, he was considered to have had the longest ministerial career in modern British politics. Churchill suffered another mild stroke in December 1956.
Retirement and death (1955–65)
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 a knighthood as Garter Knight. After leaving the premiership, Churchill spent less time in parliament until he stood down at the 1964 general election. Churchill spent most of his retirement at Chartwell and at his home in Hyde Park Gate, in London, and became a habitué of high society on the French Riviera.
Although publicly supportive, Churchill was privately scathing about Eden's Suez Invasion. His wife believed that he had made a number of visits to the US in the following years in an attempt to help repair Anglo-American relations.
By the time of the 1959 general election Churchill seldom attended the House of Commons. Despite the Conservative landslide, his own majority fell by more than a thousand. It is widely believed that as his mental and physical faculties decayed, he began to lose the battle he had supposedly fought for so long against the so-called "Black Dog" of depression. However, as was suggested in a previous section of this article, the nature, incidence and severity of Churchill's Black Dog is problematical. Anthony Montague Browne, Personal Secretary to Churchill during the latter's final ten years of life, wrote that he never heard Churchill make reference to Black Dog, and he vigorously contested the suggestion that the former prime minister, his health progressively ravaged by advanced old age, multiple strokes and other serious illness, was, independently of circumstances, afflicted also by inherent depression.
There was speculation that Churchill may have had Alzheimer's disease in his last years, although others maintain that his reduced mental capacity was simply the cumulative result of the ten strokes and the increasing deafness he suffered from during the period 1949–1963. 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.
Despite poor health, Churchill still tried to remain active in public life, and on St George's Day 1964, sent a message of congratulations to the surviving veterans of the 1918 Zeebrugge Raid who were attending a service of commemoration in Deal, Kent, where two casualties of the raid were buried in the Hamilton Road Cemetery. On 15 January 1965, Churchill suffered a severe stroke and died at his London home nine days later, aged 90, on the morning of Sunday, 24 January 1965, 70 years to the day after his own father's death.
Churchill's funeral plan had been initiated in 1953, after he suffered a major stroke, under the name Operation Hope Not. The purpose was to commemorate Churchill "on a scale befitting his position in history", as Queen Elizabeth II declared.
The funeral was the largest state funeral in world history up to that time, with representatives from 112 nations; only China did not send an emissary. In Europe, 350 million people, including 25 million in Britain, watched the funeral on television, and only the Republic of Ireland did not broadcast it live.
By decree of the Queen, his body lay in state in Westminster Hall for three days and a state funeral service was held at St Paul's Cathedral on 30 January 1965. One of the largest assemblages of statesmen in the world was gathered for the service. Unusually, the Queen attended the funeral because Churchill was the first commoner since William Gladstone to lie-in-State. As Churchill's lead-lined coffin passed up the River Thames from Tower Pier to Festival Pier on the MV Havengore, dockers lowered their crane jibs in a salute.
The Royal Artillery fired the 19-gun salute due a head of government, and the RAF staged a fly-by of sixteen English Electric Lightning fighters. The coffin was then taken the short distance to Waterloo station where it was loaded onto a specially prepared and painted carriage as part of the funeral train for its rail journey to Hanborough, seven miles northwest of Oxford.
The funeral train of Pullman coaches carrying his family mourners was hauled by Battle of Britain class steam locomotive No. 34051 Winston Churchill. In the fields along the route, and at the stations through which the train passed, thousands stood in silence to pay their last respects. At Churchill's request, he was buried in the family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, not far from his birthplace at Blenheim Palace. Churchill's funeral van—former Southern Railway van S2464S—is now part of a preservation project with the Swanage Railway, having been repatriated to the UK in 2007 from the US, to where it had been exported in 1965.
Legacy and historical assessments
Churchill's legacy continues to stir intense debate amongst writers and historians. According to Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, even during his own lifetime Churchill was an "incredibly complex, contradictory and larger-than-life human being," who frequently wrestled with those contradictions. Notably, his strongly held and outspoken views on race, Judaism and Islam have frequently been highlighted, quoted and strongly criticised. However, historian Richard Toye has observed that in the context of the era, Churchill was not "particularly unique" in having strong opinions on race and the superiority of white peoples, even if many of his contemporaries did not subscribe to them. Though a firm supporter of the Zionist movement, Churchill retained casually anti-Semitic views in common with many of the British upper classes. While staunchly against the unions and holding Communist agitation responsible for the Labour movement during the 1920s, he supported social reform, if more in the spirit of Victorian paternalism.
Artist, historian, and writer
Churchill was an accomplished amateur artist and took great pleasure in painting, especially after his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1915. He found a haven in art to overcome the spells of depression which he suffered throughout his life. As William Rees-Mogg has stated, "In his own life, he had to suffer the 'black dog' of depression. In his landscapes and still lives there is no sign of depression." Churchill was persuaded and taught to paint by his artist friend, Paul Maze, whom he met during the First World War. Maze was a great influence on Churchill's painting and became a lifelong painting companion.
Churchill's best known paintings are impressionist landscapes, many of which were painted while on holiday in the South of France, Egypt or Morocco. Using the pseudonym "Charles Morin", he continued his hobby throughout his life and painted hundreds of paintings, many of which are on show in the studio at Chartwell as well as 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.:46–47 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.
Some of his paintings can today be seen in the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection at the Dallas Museum of Art. Emery Reves was Churchill's American publisher, as well as a close friend and Churchill often visited Emery and his wife at their villa, La Pausa, in the South of France, which had originally been built in 1927 for Coco Chanel by her lover the 2nd Duke of Westminster. The villa was rebuilt within the museum in 1985 with a gallery of Churchill paintings and memorabilia.
Despite his lifelong fame and upper-class origins, Churchill always struggled to keep his income at a level which would fund his extravagant lifestyle. MPs before 1946 received only a nominal salary (and in fact did not receive anything at all until the Parliament Act 1911) so many had secondary professions from which to earn a living. From his first book in 1898 until his second stint as Prime Minister, Churchill's income while out of office was almost entirely made from writing books and opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines. The most famous of his newspaper articles are those that appeared in the Evening Standard from 1936 warning of the rise of Hitler and the danger of the policy of appeasement.
Churchill was a prolific writer, often under the pen name "Winston S. Churchill", which he used by agreement with the American novelist of the same name to avoid confusion between their works. His output included a novel, two biographies, three volumes of memoirs, and several histories. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values". Two of his most famous works, published after his first premiership brought his international fame to new heights, were his six-volume memoir The Second World War and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples; a four-volume history covering the period from Caesar's invasions of Britain (55 BC) to the beginning of the First World War (1914). A number of volumes of Churchill's speeches were also published. the first of which, Into Battle, was published in the United States under the title Blood, Sweat and Tears, and was included in Life Magazine's list of the 100 outstanding books of 1924–1944.
Churchill was an amateur bricklayer, constructing buildings and garden walls at his country home at Chartwell, where he also bred butterflies. As part of this hobby Churchill joined the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers, but was expelled due to his revived membership in the Conservative Party.
Churchill was passionate about science and technology. When he was 22 he read Darwin's On the Origin of Species and a primer on physics. In the 1920s and 1930s he wrote popular-science essays on topics such as evolution and fusion power. In an unpublished manuscript, Are We Alone in the Universe?, he investigates the possibility of extraterrestrial life in a thorough scientific way.
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In addition to the honour of a state funeral, Churchill received a wide range of awards and other honours, including the following, chronologically:
- Churchill was appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 1907.
- He was conferred the Order of the Companions of Honour in 1922.
- He was awarded the Territorial Decoration for his long service in the Territorial Army in 1924.
- Churchill was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1941
- In 1941, he was appointed to the Privy Council of Canada.
- In 1945, while Churchill was mentioned by Halvdan Koht as one of seven appropriate candidates for the Nobel Prize in Peace, the nomination went to Cordell Hull.
- He was conferred the Order of Merit in 1946.
- In 1953 Churchill was invested as a Knight of the Garter (becoming Sir Winston Churchill, KG), and awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his numerous published works, especially his six-volume set The Second World War.
- In a BBC poll of the "100 Greatest Britons" in 2002, he was proclaimed "The Greatest of Them All" based on approximately a million votes from BBC viewers. Churchill was also rated as one of the most influential leaders in history by TIME. Churchill College, Cambridge was founded in 1958 in his honour.
- In 1963, Churchill was named an Honorary Citizen of the United States by Public Law 88-6/H.R. 4374 (approved/enacted 9 April 1963).
- On 29 November 1995, during a visit to the United Kingdom, President Bill Clinton of the United States announced to both Houses of Parliament that an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer would be named the USS Winston S. Churchill. This was the first United States warship to be named after an Englishman since the end of the American Revolution.
Honorary military appointments
Churchill has held substantive ranks in the British Army and in the Territorial Army since he was commissioned as a Cornet in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars until his retirement from the Territorial Army in 1924 with the rank of Major, having held the temporary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel during the Great War.
In addition he held many honorary military appointments. In 1939, he was appointed as an Honorary Air Commodore in the Auxiliary Air Force and was awarded honorary wings in 1943. In 1941, he was made a Regimental Colonel of the 4th Hussars. During the Second World War, he frequently wore his uniform as an Air Commodore and as a Colonel of the Hussars. After the war he was appointed as the Colonel in Chief of the 4th Hussars, Queen's Royal Irish Hussars and the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars.
In 1913, he was appointed an Elder Brother of Trinity House as result of his appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty. He held the post of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports from 1941 until his death and in 1949 was appointed Deputy Lieutenant (DL) of Kent.
- University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, United States (LLD) in 1941
- Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States (LLD) in 1943
- McGill University in Montreal, Canada (LLD) in 1944
- Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, United States, 5 March 1946
- Leiden University in Leiden, Netherlands, honorary doctorate in 1946
- University of Miami in Miami, Florida, United States in 1947
- University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark (PhD) in 1950
- List of people on the cover of Time magazine (1920s) – 14 April 1923, 11 May 1925
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- Churchill, Winston S. (1951), The Second World War, Vol. 5: "Closing the Ring", Houghton Miffin Edition. Bantam Books, New York (No ISBN or other number provided), pg. 606. "Prime Minister to Foreign Secretary 5. Feb (19) 44. Your minute about raising certain legations to the status of embassy. I must say that Cuba has as good a claim as some other places– 'la perla de Las Antillas'. Great offence will be given if all the others have it and this large, rich, beautiful island, the home of the cigar, is denied. Surely Cuba has much more claim than Venezuela. You will make a bitter enemy if you leave them out, and after a bit you will be forced to give them what you have given to the others."
- Jenkins, p. 29
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- House Of Commons May 4; King's Theatre, Edinburgh, July 17, "It is quite true that the land monopoly is not the only monopoly which exists, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies; it is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly"
- House Of Commons May 4; King's Theatre, Edinburgh, July 17, "that the unearned increment in land is reaped by the land monopolist in exact proportion, not to the service, but to the disservice done. It is monopoly which is the keynote; and where monopoly prevails, the greater the injury to society, the greater the reward of the monopolist will be. See how this evil process strikes at every form of industrial activity."
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Churchill was an admirer of conspiracy theory writer, Nesta H. Webster; "Churchill cited her with approval in his 1920 newspaper article "Zionism versus Bolshevism"
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- for a history of The Focus see E Spier Focus Wolff 1963.
- Harold Nicholson's letter to his wife on 13 March summed up the situation: "If we send an ultimatum to Germany she ought in all reason to climb down. But then she will not climb down and we shall have war ... The people of this country absolutely refuse to have a war. We would be faced with a general strike if we suggested such a thing. We shall therefore have to climb down ignominiously", Diaries and Letters 1930–1939 p. 249.
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