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Winston Churchill was one of the best-known, and some say one of the greatest, statesmen of the 20th century. Though he was born into a life of privilege, he dedicated himself to public service. His legacy is a complicated one: He was an idealist and a pragmatist; an orator and a soldier; an advocate of progressive social reforms and an unapologetic elitist; a defender of democracy – especially during World War II – as well as of Britain’s fading empire. But for many people in Great Britain and elsewhere, Winston Churchill is simply a hero.
Winston Churchill came from a long line of English aristocrat-politicians. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was descended from the First Duke of Marlborough and was himself a well-known figure in Tory politics in the 1870s and 1880s.
His mother, born Jennie Jerome, was an American heiress whose father was a stock speculator and part-owner of The New York Times. (Rich American girls like Jerome who married European noblemen were known as “dollar princesses.”)
Churchill was born at the family’s estate near Oxford on November 30, 1874. He was educated at the Harrow prep school, where he performed so poorly that he did not even bother to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. Instead, in 1893 young Winston Churchill headed off to military school at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Battles and Books
After he left Sandhurst, Churchill traveled all around the British Empire as a soldier and as a journalist. In 1896, he went to India; his first book, published in 1898, was an account of his experiences in India’s Northwest Frontier Province.
In 1899, the London Morning Post sent him to cover the Boer War in South Africa, but he was captured by enemy soldiers almost as soon as he arrived. (News of Churchill’s daring escape through a bathroom window made him a minor celebrity back home in Britain.)
By the time he returned to England in 1900, the 26-year-old Churchill had published five books.
Churchill: “Crossing the Chamber”
That same year, Winston Churchill joined the House of Commons as a Conservative. Four years later, he “crossed the chamber” and became a Liberal.
His work on behalf of progressive social reforms such as an eight-hour workday, a government-mandated minimum wage, a state-run labor exchange for unemployed workers and a system of public health insurance infuriated his Conservative colleagues, who complained that this new Churchill was a traitor to his class.
Churchill and Gallipoli
In 1911, Churchill turned his attention away from domestic politics when he became the First Lord of the Admiralty (akin to the Secretary of the Navy in the U.S.). Noting that Germany was growing more and more bellicose, Churchill began to prepare Great Britain for war: He established the Royal Naval Air Service, modernized the British fleet and helped invent one of the earliest tanks.
Despite Churchill’s prescience and preparation, World War I was a stalemate from the start. In an attempt to shake things up, Churchill proposed a military campaign that soon dissolved into disaster: the 1915 invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
Churchill hoped that this offensive would drive Turkey out of the war and encourage the Balkan states to join the Allies, but Turkish resistance was much stiffer than he had anticipated. After nine months and 250,000 casualties, the Allies withdrew in disgrace.
After the debacle at Gallipoli, Churchill left the Admiralty.
Churchill Between the Wars
During the 1920s and 1930s, Churchill bounced from government job to government job, and in 1924 he rejoined the Conservatives. Especially after the Nazis came to power in 1933, Churchill spent a great deal of time warning his countrymen about the perils of German nationalism, but Britons were weary of war and reluctant to get involved in international affairs again.
Likewise, the British government ignored Churchill’s warnings and did all it could to stay out of Hitler’s way. In 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain even signed an agreement giving Germany a chunk of Czechoslovakia – “throwing a small state to the wolves,” Churchill scolded – in exchange for a promise of peace.
A year later, however, Hitler broke his promise and invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war. Chamberlain was pushed out of office, and Winston Churchill took his place as prime minister in May 1940.
Churchill: The “British Bulldog”
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” Churchill told the House of Commons in his first speech as prime minister.
“We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
Just as Churchill predicted, the road to victory in World War II was long and difficult: France fell to the Nazis in June 1940. In July, German fighter planes began three months of devastating air raids on Britain herself.
Though the future looked grim, Churchill did all he could to keep British spirits high. He gave stirring speeches in Parliament and on the radio. He persuaded U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide war supplies – ammunition, guns, tanks, planes – to the Allies, a program known as Lend-Lease, before the Americans even entered the war.
Though Churchill was one of the chief architects of the Allied victory, war-weary British voters ousted the Conservatives and their prime minister from office just two months after Germany’s surrender in 1945.
The Iron Curtain
The now-former prime minister spent the next several years warning Britons and Americans about the dangers of Soviet expansionism.
In a speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946, for example, Churchill declared that an anti-democratic “Iron Curtain,” “a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization,” had descended across Europe. Churchill’s speech was the first time anyone had used that now-common phrase to describe the Communist threat.
In 1951, 77-year-old Winston Churchill became prime minister for the second time. He spent most of this term working (unsuccessfully) to build a sustainable détente between the East and the West. He retired from the post in 1955.
In 1953, Queen Elizabeth made Winston Churchill a knight of the Order of the Garter. He died in 1965, one year after retiring from Parliament.
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on November 30, 1874, at Blenheim Palace𠅊 home given by Queen Anne to Churchill's ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. He was the eldest son of Lord Randolph Churchill, a Tory Democrat (a British political party) who achieved early success as a rebel in his party. Later, after Randolph Churchill failed, he was cruelly described as Ȫ man with a brilliant future behind him." His mother was Jenny Jerome, the beautiful and talented daughter of Leonard Jerome, a New York businessman. Winston idolized his mother, but his relations with his father, who died in 1895, were cold and distant. It is generally agreed that as a child Winston was not shown warmth and affection by his family.
As a child Churchill was sensitive and suffered from a minor speech impediment. He was educated following the norms of his class. He first went to preparatory school, then to Harrow in 1888 when he was twelve years old. Winston was not especially interested in studying Latin or mathematics and spent much time studying in the lowest level courses until he passed the tests and was able to advance. He received a good education in English, however, and won a prize for reading aloud a portion of Thomas Macaulay's (1800) Lays of Ancient Rome (1842). After finishing at Harrow, Winston failed the entrance test for the Royal Military College at Sandhurst three times before finally passing and being allowed to attend the school. His academic record improved a great deal once he began at the college. When he graduated in 1894 he was eighth in his class.
How Randolph Churchill Began the Longest Biography in History
“Randolph’s Day”: Rose Garden, The White House, 9 April 1963. President John F. Kennedy declares Sir Winston Churchill an honorary citizen of the United States. On steps, front row (L-R): Undersecretary of State George Ball, British Ambassador Sir David Ormsby-Gore, President Kennedy, Randolph Churchill. Back rows (L-R): Deputy Chief of Protocol William J. Tonesk (mostly behind Ball), Sylvia Ormsby-Gore, Randolph’s son Winston, President’s naval aide Tazewell Shepard. Secret Service agent Art Godfrey at far right. (Photograph by White House photographer Cecil Stoughton. presented to Richard Langworth, 1988, public domain)
“Randolph Churchill: Present at the Creation,” is from a lecture aboard theRegent Seven Seas Explorer on the 2019 Hillsdale College Cruise around Britain, 8 June 2019. To play this audio resource, please click here.
Most everybody has an inkling of who Winston Churchill was. But how many know of his son Randolph? How many schoolchildren have heard of him? They should, because Randolph Churchill founded and began the longest biography ever written. In the words of Dean Acheson, he was “present at the creation.”
He was written off recently as “a violent drunk marred by scandals, divorces and infirmity of purpose.” In 1953 he was called a “paid hack.” He sued for libel, won, and published a book about it, What I Said about the Press. What he said about the press is interesting. He said they all had the same opinions, mouthed the same lines, and never criticized each other, because as he put it, “Dog don’t eat dog.” Does that sound familiar?
Paid hack and infirmity of purpose are not charges that stick. Randolph Churchill’s career in journalism lasted thirty-six years. He wrote hundreds of articles, edited seven volumes of his father’s speeches, and published fifteen books, including the first seven narrative and document volumes of Winston S. Churchill, the official biography.
Excerpts: Randolph Churchill
At Eton, Randolph wrote, “I was lazy and unsuccessful…and unpopular.” In October 1930 he quit Oxford and began a lecture tour of America, hoping to recoup his depleted finances. He began writing for the press and was apparently the first British journalist to warn about Hitler in print. In Munich in 1932, he tried to arrange for his father to meet Hitler—size up the enemy, so to speak. But that interesting prospect didn’t come off.
Predicting in print that he would make a fortune and become prime minister, Randolph ran for Parliament as an independent Conservative in Wavertree, Liverpool in 1935. This embarrassed his father, for Randolph split the Tory vote and handed a safe seat to Labour.
Randolph was rebuffed twice more before getting in for Preston, Lancashire. Because of the wartime political truce he was unopposed, but in 1945 he lost decisively. After the war he was twice beaten by Labour’s Michael Foot, while practicing his father’s celebrated collegiality. The two candidates would fling invective at each other in public, then meet for a drink afterwards. Foot later told Martin Gilbert, “You and I belong to the most exclusive club in London: the friends of Randolph Churchill.”
Second World War
World War II found Randolph in North Africa, performing sensitive intelligence assignments with skill and discretion. Like his father he was absolutely fearless. Anxious for combat, he talked his way into Fitzroy Maclean’s British mission to Tito. He parachuted into Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, where his exploits were heralded.
In 1944 Randolph’s father met Tito in Naples, saying he was sorry he was too old to land by parachute otherwise he would have been fighting with Tito’s partisans. Tito replied: “But you have sent us your son.” Tears glittered in Churchill’s eyes. He always declared a “deep animal love” for Randolph, while adding sadly: “every time we meet we seem to have a bloody row.”
“The Great Work”
After the war, Churchill willed his archive to Randolph, who was now writing books. In 1959, impressed by his son’s biography of Lord Derby, he invited Randolph to be his biographer. Randolph devoted himself to the job, knowing by then that he had wrecked his body, that the process of disintegration was advanced. Could he finish in time? Randolph wondered.
He housed the archives in a fireproof strong room at Stour, his home in Suffolk. His team of assistants, whom he called his “Young Gentlemen,” would research the papers and have them typed in triplicate. Then they would read the typed version to him, standing at an upright desk which had once belonged to Disraeli. As they read, he would fire questions which they would jot down in the margin to be answered later.
In 1962 young Martin Gilbert came to Suffolk: “I learned at Stour that history was concerned with character and humanity, as well as with facts and achievements….Research at Stour was as far from any dry-as-dust archive or ivory tower as one could imagine. [The questions led me] into a realm I had hardly visited during my undergraduate years at Oxford, the personalities, governments and wars of late Victorian England. After each hour or so of reading, I was expected to disappear, bury my head in the reference books, and emerge with all the answers in place. Sometimes I hardly knew the meaning of the questions, let alone how to tackle them.
Many have wondered how Martin Gilbert lasted so long with this mercurial character. Part of it had to be that Randolph was intensely interesting. “Aside from his heroically dismal manners, his gambling, arrogance, vicious temper, indiscretions, and aggression,” Andrew Roberts wrote, he “was generous, patriotic, extravagant and amazingly courageous.”
Among the many portraits of Randolph, I think the best is by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She recalled 9 April 1963, “a spring day after rain,” when President Kennedy proclaimed Sir Winston an honorary American citizen. “We met in Jack’s office,” she wrote.
Randolph was ashen, his voice a whisper. “All that this ceremony means to the two principals,” I thought, “is the gift they wish it to be to Randolph’s father—and they are both so nervous it will be a disaster.”
Jack spoke first but I couldn’t listen. Then the presentation. Randolph stepped forward to respond: “Mr. President.” His voice was strong. He spoke on, with almost the voice of Winston Churchill. He sent his words across the afternoon, that most brilliant, loving son—speaking for his father. Always for his father. But that afternoon the world stopped and looked at Randolph. And many saw what they had missed…. I will forever remember that as Randolph’s Day.
Randolph died on 6 June 1968. Filling out his death certificate, his doctor didn’t know how to state the cause: “With Randolph the answer is: everything. He’s worn out every organ in his body at the same time.”
His son wrote: “We buried him in Bladon churchyard, beside his grandfather, and his father, whom he loved and revered so deeply. To this day the memory of him lingers on in the hearts of his friends.”
The Study of History and the Practice of Politics
I am honoured to speak to you in a venue that hosted Winston Churchill at a luncheon on August 17, 1929. Including those listening on loud speakers on the street outside of the Royal York, 3,000 heard him.
Churchill was actually reasonably modest about what drew people to hear him. On one occasion, when he was complimented on the large turnout, he responded: “Yes, but imagine how many would have come if you had announced you were hanging me.”
On the Royal York event, the Toronto Star reported that the room echoed and re-echoed with applause when he spoke of the ties of love that bound the Dominions with the motherland.
I speak to you this evening of 3 great historians: Margaret MacMillan, Roy Jenkins and Winston Churchill.
A couple of years ago I heard Margaret speak about her then forthcoming book on the Versailles conference. Last summer, in Oxford, I obtained that marvellous book that I am sure will become a classic. Paris 1919 was originally published as Peacemakers in the UK. You will have an opportunity to hear Margaret speak at a future Society event. She is as fine a speaker as she is a writer.
I speak to you this evening about greatness: two great men, a great Briton and the greatest Briton, according to a recent BBC poll.
I speak of Roy Jenkins and Winston Churchill and the themes that unite them: the study of history and the practice of politics – themes that are so well illustrated in the your award to Ms. Macdonald and your recognition of Ms. MacMillan.
Winston Churchill told former US presidential speechwriter James Humes, when the latter was a teenager. “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.”
But in history lies much more. So much more than that the battle over the history taught in our schools is seen by many as a battle over our national identity and the values of our society.
In Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Jeffrey Simpson identified the issue with this comment from Margaret MacMillan.
“There’s a huge debate in the profession,” Ms. MacMillan acknowledges. “Social and cultural historians have accused people like me of being old-fashioned and never reading anything new.”
Arguments about the importance of history and attempts to shape it and control it are certainly not new.
In 1927 the then mayor of Chicago, William Hale Thompson, launched an attack on allegedly pro-British textbooks in the city’s schools.
Chicagoans, more interested in the services provided by Al Capone, paid little attention.
Political cartoonists had a field day with it. In one cartoon, a police officer pulled over a suspicious-looking truck that had just arrived from Canada.
Demanding to know what the driver was carrying, he got the response.
“Drive on, brother,” said the policeman. “I thought it was history books.”
Churchill made frequent comments about history and its importance.
Some were pragmatic and should be heeded by many contemporary political leaders: “A good knowledge of history is a quiver full of arrows in debates.”
Others are more profound: “Everyone can recognize history when it happens. Everyone can recognize history after it has happened but it only the wise person who knows at the moment what is vital and permanent, what is lasting and memorable.”
But Churchill is often criticized for having a too romantic view of history – views strongly influenced by his upbringing.
“History, for Churchill,” said the great Cambridge historian, J.H. Plumb, “was not a subject like geography or mathematics. It was a part of his temperament, as much a part of his being as his social class and, indeed, closely allied to it.
It became a part of his politics, his diplomacy, his strategy and his tactics. I think it is extremely difficult for anyone not born into Churchill’s world or time to realize what a dominance the past had over all his thinking and action.
And one should recall that for Churchill the past was very personal. Think merely of Blenheim Palace where he was born.”
We cannot all be born in Blenheim – nor can we all have Churchill’s talent for the resplendent phrase, but we all can, through a deeper and more thorough knowledge of history, have a better understanding of what is vital and permanent, lasting and memorable.
Churchill’s romantic view of history led him to this conclusion:
“History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past trying to reconstruct its success to revive the echoes and kindle with pale gleams the passions of former days.”
Let me suggest that this is not enough. The passions of former days will be kindled only if they are relevant to each and every generation.
Thus it is our responsibility to our children, and our children’s children, that while the lamp of history may flicker, it must not go out.
There have been many recent attempts to relegate the history of Margaret MacMillan, Roy Jenkins and even Winston Churchill himself to the dustbin of history.
TIME magazine, despite declaring him the Man of the Half Century in 1950, concluded that by the end of the century Churchill had “ended up on the wrong side of history.”
The Atlantic Monthly announced on a recent cover that the revisionist verdict is that Churchill was “ruthless, boorish, manipulative, alcoholic, myopic, and wrong about almost everything” – but then conceded that “he was right about the thing that mattered most.”
And this may be just a start. Piers Brendon, former Keeper of the Churchill Archives in Cambridge, has forecast a virtual explosion of Churchill studies once the Archives go online. Thus far, he says, only 10% of the material has been used.
Can you imagine what the revisionists will find with access to the other 90%?
Much of this nit-picking revisionist work is put into perspective by a story Churchill told while commenting on the press attacks during the war.
“A sailor jumped into the water at Plymouth to rescue a small boy from drowning. A week later the sailor was accosted by a woman who asked, “Are you the man who picked my son out of the water the other night?
“That is true, ma’am” replied the sailor. “I am the man.”
“Ah,” said the woman. “You are the man I am looking for. Where is his cap?”
Despite Churchill’s achievements of facing down the most ferocious dictator of the century, and forecasting the post-war threat of another, and constructing the building blocks of the greatest alliance in history, we still have people, particularly in the popular press, asking questions about a cap.
Fortunately we have books like Churchill, A Biography to answer those questions.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, brings us to the other great man and the other great theme.
The man is the one you came to hear this evening, Roy Jenkins, and the theme is the practice of politics.
Lord Jenkins is in everyone’s prayers this evening. If I could send him a message I would remind him of the time that a reporter wished Churchill well on his 80th birthday and that he looked forward to doing the same on his 100th.
Churchill replied: “I don’t see why you shouldn’t, young man, you look healthy enough to me.”
Another great Cambridge historian, Sir Geoffrey Elton, once said that:
“There are times when I incline to judge all historians by their opinion of Winston Churchill – whether they can see that no matter how much better the details, often damaging, of man and career become known, he still remains, quite simply, a great man.”
Sir Geoffrey would have judged Roy Jenkins’ biography of Churchill quite favourably.
The footnotes, however, show that there were few primary sources used so we have to assume it is based on the 10% that Piers Brendon told us about.
If that is so, then why read another Churchill biography? The short answer is that this is not just another Churchill biography.
The most important thing Roy Jenkins brings to his book is Roy Jenkins himself.
There are many parallels between the lives of Jenkins and Churchill: writer, politician, cabinet minister, productive octogenarian. Indeed, Jenkins is one of the few remaining students of Churchill’s life who actually observed him in the House of Commons.
Jenkins recalled that observing Churchill from the backbench of the opposing party “was like looking at a giant mountain landscape, which could occasionally be illuminated by an unforgettable light but could also descend into lowering cloud, from the terrace of a modest hotel a safe distance away.”
Jenkins’ most useful insights relate to Churchill’s political career. Notwithstanding all the achievements of the great war leader and world statesman, Jenkins reminds us that Churchill was first and foremost a politician – and proud to be so.
“Throughout [Churchill’s] long marriage,” writes Jenkins, “his wife Clementine was to experience no more than the most mild and infrequent gusts of feminine rivalry. But she was nonetheless up against the most formidable competition for his attention, and that was his attachment to what was always to him the great game of politics.”
I expect that there are spouses here this evening who relate to that situation.
The irrepressible Churchill was never short of witty comments about his chosen profession.
Tongue in cheek, I hope, he said that “politicians are asked to stand, want to sit and are expected to lie.”
After knowing every major British politician over his 65 year political career he concluded that to most people “a bad politician is one you disagree with.”
He said that “the main qualification for political office is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year….And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”
He considered politics “almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous. In war you can be killed only once, but in politics many times.”
Certainly few had more political lives than he. Most of you are well aware of Robert Rhodes James’s book: Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939. If ever there has been a political resurrection it was Winston Churchill in 1940.
One reason for his many political deaths was his famous ratting on the Conservatives to the Liberals in 1904 and then re-ratting on the Liberals back to the Conservatives in the 1920’s.
But he knew that one has to be very selective in timing and objectives. Commenting on a 1920’s Conservative member who was standing as a Liberal in a by-election, Churchill said it was the only instance of a rat swimming towards a sinking ship.
Roy Jenkins entered the House of Commons as a Labour member in 1948 and after serving in several Labour administrations he retired as a member of the Social Democratic Party. In respect, I decline to apply the same verb to Lord Jenkins or to use the same metaphor.
However, Churchill’s changes in party allegiance did not compromise his value system.
He believed that “some men change their Party for the sake of their principles others change their principles for the sake of the Party.”
On the other hand, he once said that he “never stood so high upon a principle that he could not lower it to suit the circumstances.”
There has recently been much discussion in this country about the rivalry of party leaders, the relationship of those leaders to caucus, and the relationship of the cabinet to the House of Commons.
There was never any doubt about where Winston Churchill stood on these matters.
With regard to the rivalry of party leaders, let us even call it cabinet solidarity, Churchill’s comments are certainly instructive:
“In any sphere of action there can be no comparison between the positions of number one and number two, three, or four. The duties and the problems of all persons other than number one are quite different and in many ways” he says, perhaps surprisingly, “more difficult.”
“Number two or three has to consider not only the merits of the policy, but the mind of his chief not only what to advise, but what it is proper for him in his station to advise not only what to do, but how to get it agreed, and how to get it done.
Moreover, number two or three will have to reckon with numbers four, five and six, or perhaps some bright outsider – number twenty.
Ambition, not so much for vulgar ends, but for fame, glints in every mind.”
Having served in many positions at several levels, Churchill concluded that “at the top there are great simplifications. An accepted leader has only to be sure of what it is best to do, or at least to have made up his mind about it. The loyalties which centre upon number one are enormous. If he trips, he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes, they must be covered. If he sleeps, he must not be wantonly disturbed.
But if he is no good he must be pole-axed. But this last extreme process cannot be carried out every day….”
“I am a child of the House of Commons,” said Churchill. And in the most trying moments of the war he always found time to appear before the House and explain his actions.
Roy Jenkins writes that “what was also noticeable was the extent to which [Churchill] applied himself to some of the routine business of leadership of the House. He did not cocoon himself in the raiment of a remote war leader who could only make epic pronouncements.”
Five Days in London, May 1940, by John Lukacs made famous the remarkable story of how Churchill, during a life and death struggle with Lord Halifax over whether to negotiate with Hitler through Mussolini, faced down his political opponents in the War Cabinet, with the support of his rank and file supporters.
Churchill’s faith in his party caucus and in the House of Commons was based on an even more fervent belief in the teaching of his father to “trust the people” even when those same people gave him what he called “the Order of the Boot” in 1945.
Roy Jenkins brings the political Churchill alive as none has done before.
Churchill once said that “anecdotes are the gleaming toys of House of Commons history.”
Jenkins tells us, for example, that during a squabble between Churchill and Labour leader Clement Attlee in 1945, Attlee was attending Jenkins’ wedding that Churchill’s weapons of choice were knives and forks that Churchill’s champagne and oysters receptions at Chartwell and the Savoy Grill foreshadowed Harold Wilson’s beer and sandwiches approach at 10 Downing St.
Jenkins is particularly good on Churchill’s relationship with his great contemporaries.
Lord Beaverbrook and Brendon Bracken had far too much influence, particularly on issues they knew nothing about.
Nye Bevan never commanded Churchill’s admiration or liking, Ernest Bevin and Clement Attlee were treated with a wary respect.
With Leo Amery he was instinctively impatient. Anthony Eden and Archibald Sinclair, being closest to him, received the most rebukes.
Churchill was normally quite magnanimous towards political opponents but he had trouble forgiving former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin for leaving Britain unprepared and vulnerable to German aggression.
It may be apocryphal, but it is said that when Churchill heard of Baldwin’s death, during the war, he commented:
I understand that everyone here may not know who all those people are but it is does illustrate the value of Lord Jenkins to those interested in “the gleaming toys of the House of Commons.”
Of the three US presidents with whom Churchill worked, he had a guarded ease with Roosevelt his appraisal of Eisenhower, as president, was hostile and for Truman he probably had the most respect.
Both Winston Churchill and Roy Jenkins were wordsmiths – but in a different way.
Churchill could certainly use big words when necessary. Rather than be called unparliamentary for lying he admitted to using a terminological inexactitude. He thought simple words were better and small words were best.
Perhaps the most famous example is that he changed Local Defense Volunteers to simply, the Home Guard.
Roy Jenkins likes big words. He talks of the fissiparous nature of the opposition and comments on the need to vary the fructiferous metaphor.
Churchill is famous for his remark in My Early Life that he would let the clever boys learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. “But the only thing I would whip them for would be for not knowing English. I would whip them hard for that.”
I fear that even Mr. Churchill would not last long in today’s school system.
Lord Jenkins certainly knows English, but readers of his book will also note a fondness for Latin and French phrases, so perhaps you should also have a multilingual dictionary at your side.
Lord Jenkins is no stranger to great people. He served with them, or against them, and he wrote about them – Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson, James Callahan, Margaret Thatcher, Herbert Asquith, William Gladstone,Winston Churchill – so his judgments have some authority.
Jenkins’ concludes his biography with:
“When I started writing this book I thought that Gladstone was, by a narrow margin, the greater man, certainly the more remarkable specimen of humanity. In the course of writing it I have changed my mind. I now put Churchill, with all his idiosyncrasies, his indulgences, his occasional childishness, but also his genius, his tenacity, and his persistent ability, right or wrong, successful or unsuccessful, to be larger than life, as the greatest human being ever to occupy 10 Downing Street.”
If the editors of TIME and of The Atlantic Monthly – or the cultural and social historians with whom Margaret MacMillan has long debated – were to think more deeply about books like Churchill or Paris 1919 they might just come to the same conclusion and they must might begin to realize that history is indeed a mansion with many rooms and political narrative is an important room in it.
Ms. MacMillan concludes her book with two incredibly relevant questions: How can the irrational passions of nationalism or religion be contained before they do more damage? How can we outlaw war?
While reflecting on these questions, I am reminded of a closing scene in the movie: Saving Private Ryan.
A dying Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) tells Private Ryan (Matt Damon), referring to the carnage and death caused by the mission to get the boy home: “Earn it – Deserve it”
That same message was on a famous wartime poster of Winston Churchill admonishing us to: “Deserve Victory”
Books like Churchill and Paris 1919 provide us with eternal lessons on how we can do that.
The essential speeches of Churchill
Winston Churchill was the most eloquent and expressive statesman of his time. It was as an orator that Churchill became most completely alive, and it was through his oratory that his words made their greatest and most enduring impact. While the definitive collection of Churchill’s speeches fills eight volumes, here for the first time, his grandson, Winston S. Churchill, has put together a personal selection of his favorite speeches in a single volume. Read an excerpt of “Never Give In: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches.”
Winston Churchill’s rendezvous with destiny came on 10 May 1940, with his appointment as Prime Minister in Britain’s hour of crisis. On that day Hitler launched his blitzkrieg against France, Belgium and the Low Countries, which was to smash all in its path. It was then that Winston Churchill, already 65 years of age and, as he put it, ‘qualified to draw the Old Age Pension’, deployed the power of his oratory. After years during which the British nation had heard only the voices of appeasement and surrender, suddenly a new note was sounded. In a broadcast to the nation on 19 May 1940, he declared: ‘I speak to you for the first time as Prime Minister in a solemn hour in the life of our country, of our Empire, of our Allies and, above all, of the cause of Freedom.’
After a graphic account of the devastating advances by Nazi forces on the Continent he continued: ‘We have differed and quarreled in the past but now one bond unites us all - to wage war until victory is won, and never to surrender ourselves to servitude and shame, whatever the cost and agony may be.’
The effect of his words was electric. Though the situation might appear hopeless, with the French and Belgian armies — which had held firm during four long years of slaughter in the First World War — crumbling in as many weeks in the face of the furious German assault, and the remnants of Britain’s small, ill-equipped army preparing to retreat to Dunkirk, and when many, even of Britain’s friends, believed that she, too, would be forced to surrender, Winston Churchill — in the memorable phrase of that great American war-correspondent, Edward R. Murrow, ‘mobilised the English language and sent it in to battle.’
With his innate understanding of the instincts and character of the British people, garnered from leading them in battle as a junior officer in conflicts on the North-West Frontier of India, in the Sudan and South Africa, as well as in the trenches of Flanders in the First World War, Churchill inspired the British nation to feats of courage and endurance, of which they had never known, or even imagined themselves capable. In his very first Address to the House of Commons, three days after becoming Prime Minister, he famously declared (13 May 1940): ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’
With his pugnacity and puckish sense of humour, Winston Churchill commanded the attention of the British nation and was successful in persuading his fellow countrymen that — though every other major nation of Europe had surrendered to the invading Nazi hordes - Britain could, and would, fight on alone. There may have been greater orators, in the traditional sense of an ability to stand up on a soapbox and — without a note or a microphone — command and move a crowd of 10 or 20,000. Most obviously the names of Gladstone and Lloyd George spring to mind, though even in that league Winston Churchill was in the forefront.
But where he came into his own was in his command of the House of Commons and, most of all, in his radio broadcasts on the BBC to the people of Britain and the wider world. Here technology came to his aid in the nick of time. For many centuries, ever since William Caxton invented his printing press in the year 1474, the only means of mass communication had been through newspapers which, by the early twentieth century, had fallen into the hands of a handful of media tycoons who, individually and collectively, wielded immense political power. However, in 1924 — just fifteen years before the outbreak of the Second World War - Stanley Baldwin became the first British Prime Minister ever to make a radio broadcast. At the time there were barely 125,000 radio sets in Britain. However by 1940 this number had risen to close on 10 million, almost one to every home and certainly to every pub in the land.
This technological breakthrough gave Churchill a direct link to the masses of the people, and proved invaluable. The style that he adopted, and which proved so effective, was to address them not as unseen masses, but as individuals — he envisioned his audience as a couple and their family, gathered round their coal fire in the ‘cottage home’. In this way he succeeded in forging a personal bond at grassroots level with the ordinary man and woman in the street and it was this that was to see him - and them - through five years of the cruellest war the world has ever known. Though, at the time, there were no facilities for the broadcasting of Parliament, the British Broadcasting Corporation would, in the case of his more important parliamentary speeches, arrange for him to redeliver them before their microphones, so that they could be heard, not only throughout Great Britain, but across Occupied Europe, as well as throughout the United States and the farthest outposts of the British Commonwealth and Empire.
In embarking on this work I have been anxious to draw together into a single manageable volume what I regard as the best and most important of my grandfather’s speeches, spanning more than sixty years of his active political life, from his first political speech in 1897 to his acceptance of United States Honorary Citizenship from President John F. Kennedy in 1963. At the outset, I had no idea of the magnitude of the task upon which I was embarking. I knew that my grandfather was prolific as a writer, with some 30 volumes of history and biography to his credit. I was also aware of his phenomenal output as an artist, with nearly 500 completed canvases — some of a remarkably high quality - at his home at Chartwell in Kent by the time of his death.
However, I had no idea of the sheer scale of the speeches he painstakingly composed, rehearsed and delivered. The great majority were brought together by my late parliamentary colleague, Robert Rhodes James, in his Winston Churchill: The Complete Speeches 1897-1963, published in 1974, an 8-volume work comprising more than 8,000 closely printed pages - 12,500 pages in any self-respecting typeface — totaling some 5 million words.
Time and again on the American lecture circuit I have been asked: ‘Who was your grandfather’s speechwriter?’ My reply is simple: ‘He was a most remarkable man, by the name of Winston Spencer Churchill.’ In an age when front-rank politicians, almost without exception, have a raft of speechwriters, my reply provokes amazement. My aunt, Mary Soames, the last survivor of my grandfather’s children, recently told me:
My father never, at any stage of his life, employed the services of a speechwriter. At various points in his career, in dealing with Departmental matters, he would be supplied by officials with various notes and statistics, especially in relation to technical or legal matters.
Furthermore, there was a gentleman called George Christ (pronounced ‘Krist’) — whom my father insisted on summoning with the words: ‘Send for Christ!’ — who was an official at Conservative Central Office, and who would supply suggestions of points he might consider including in his Addresses to the Conservative Party Annual Conference, during the years he was Party Leader.
But it was my father - and he alone - who drafted all his major speeches especially, of course, those to the House of Commons. Jane Portal (Lady Williams), who was one of his private secretaries at the time, tells of how my father, already 80 years old and in the final months of his second Premiership, delivered himself, in the space of 7 to 8 hours, of a lengthy and detailed speech on the Hydrogen Bomb.
The late Sir John Colville, one of my grandfather’s private secretaries in the wartime years, told me shortly before his death: ‘In the case of his great wartime speeches, delivered in the House of Commons or broadcast to the nation, your grandfather would invest approximately one hour of preparation for every minute of delivery.’ Thus he would devote thirty hours of dictation, rehearsal and polishing to a half-hour speech. Therein, no doubt, lies the explanation as to how they came to move the hearts of millions in the greatest war of history and why, even to this day, they have such emotive power.
Excerpted from “Never Give In: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches” selected by his grandson Winston S. Churchill. Copyright © 2003 by Winston S. Churchill. Published by Hyperion. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.
The Official Biography, 1966-2019: A Concordance
By Antoine Capet
Note: Hillsdale College Press editions retain the original pagination. Pagination of book club editions and Minerva paperbacks is not included.
The Narrative Volumes
Volume I. Winston S. Churchill: Youth, 1874-1900, by Randolph S. Churchill.
London: Heinemann and Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966 Houghton Mifflin for the Literary Guild, 1966 London: Minerva, 1991 Hillsdale, Mich.: Hillsdale College Press, 2006.
Hardbound: i-xxxvi, 608 pp.,  pp. of plates illustrated with facsimiles, maps and portraits index [+two Companion or Document volumes].
Volume II. Winston S. Churchill: Young Statesman, 1901-1914, by Randolph S. Churchill.
Heinemann, Houghton Mifflin and Houghton Mifflin for the Literary Guild, 1967 London: Minerva, 1991 Hillsdale College Press, 2007.
Hardbound: i-xxx, 776 pp.,  pp. of plates ill., facsimiles, maps, portraits index [+three Companion or Document volumes].
Volume III. Winston S. Churchill: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916, by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann, Houghton Mifflin and Houghton Mifflin for the Literary Guild (2 vols.), 1971 Minerva, 1990 Hillsdale College Press, 2007.
Hardbound: i-xxxviii, 988 pp.  pp. of plates ill., facsimiles, maps, portraits index [+two Companion or Document volumes].
Volume IV. Winston S. Churchill: The Stricken World (Hillsdale subtitle World in Torment) 1916-1922, by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann and Houghton Mifflin, 1975 Minerva, 1990 Hillsdale College Press, 2008.
Hardbound: i-xvi, 968 pp.,  pp. of plates ill., maps, portraits index [+three Companion or Document volumes].
Volume V. Winston S. Churchill: The Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939, by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann and Houghton Mifflin, 1976 Minerva, 1990 Hillsdale College Press, 2009.
Hardbound: i-xxviii, 1168 pp.,  pp. of plates ill., portraits index [+ three Companion or Document volumes].
Volume VI. Winston S. Churchill: Finest Hour, 1939-1941, by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann and Houghton Mifflin, 1983 Toronto: Stoddardt, 1983 London: Book Club Associates, 1990 Minerva, 1989 Hillsdale College Press, 2011.
Hardbound: i-xx, 1308 pp.,  pp. of plates ill., portraits index [+three War Papers or Document volumes].
Volume VII. Winston S. Churchill: Road to Victory, 1941-1945, by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann, Houghton Mifflin and Stoddardt, 1986 Minerva, 1989 Hillsdale College Press, 2013.
Hardbound: i-xx, 1418 pp.,  p. of plates ill., maps, portraits index [+five Document volumes].
Volume VIII. Winston S. Churchill: Never Despair, 1945-1965, by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann, Houghton Mifflin and Stoddardt, 1988 Minerva, 1990 Hillsdale College Press, 2013.
Hardbound: i-xxviii, 1438 pp.,  pp. of plates ill., maps, portraits index [+two Document volumes].
The Churchill Documents
(Earlier “Companion Volumes” and “War Papers”)
Hillsdale volumes 1-16 use same pagination as the sixteen originals through 1941.
Electronic editions are in process of publication.
For Volume I (two volumes)
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 1, Youth, 1874-1896, edited by Randolph S. Churchill. Hillsdale, Mich.: Hillsdale College Press, 2006.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume I: Companion. Part 1: 1874-1896. London: Heinemann and Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 2, Young Soldier, 1896-1901, edited by Randolph S. Churchill. Hillsdale College Press, 2006.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume I: Companion. Part 2: 1896-1900. Heinemann and Houghton Mifflin, 1967.
For Volume II (three volumes)
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 3, Early Years in Politics, 1901-1907,edited by Randolph S. Churchill. Hillsdale College Press, 2007.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume II: Companion. Part 1: 1901-1907. Heinemann and Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 4, Minister of the Crown, 1907-1911, edited by Randolph S. Churchill. Hillsdale College Press, 2007.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume II: Companion. Part 2: 1907-1911. Heinemann and Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 5, At the Admiralty, 1911-1914,edited by Randolph S. Churchill. Hillsdale College Press, 2007.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume II : Companion. Part 3 : 1911-1914. Heinemann and Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
Hardbound: i-viii, 776 pp. index.
For Volume III (two volumes)
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 6, At the Admiralty, July 1914-April 1915,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2008.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume III : Companion. Part 1 : Documents, July 1914-April 1915. Heinemann, 1972 Houghton Mifflin, 1973.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 7, “The Escaped Scapegoat,” May 1915-December 1916,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2008.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume III: Companion. Part 2: Documents, May 1915-December 1916. Heinemann, 1972 Houghton Mifflin, 1973.
Hardbound: i-vi, 848 pp. index.
For Volume IV (three volumes)
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 8, War and Aftermath, December 1916-June 1919,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2008.
Originally Winston S. Churchill. Volume IV: Companion. Part 1: Documents, January 1917-June 1919. (Edited) by Martin Gilbert. Heinemann, 1977 Houghton Mifflin, 1978.
Hardbound: i-xxiii, 720 pp. maps.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 9, Disruption and Chaos, July 1919-March 1921,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2008.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume IV: Companion. Part 2: Documents, July 1919-March 1921. Heinemann, 1977 Houghton Mifflin, 1978.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 10, Conciliation and Reconstruction, April 1921-November 1922,edited by Martin Gilbert.
Originally Winston S. Churchill. Volume IV: Companion. Part 3: Documents, April 1921-November 1922. Heinemann, 1977 Houghton Mifflin, 1978.
Hardbound: 738 pp. maps index.
For Volume V (three volumes)
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 11, The Exchequer Years, 1922-1929, edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2009.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume V: Companion. Part 1 Documents: The Exchequer Years, 1922-1929. Heinemann, 1979 Houghton Mifflin, 1981.
Hardbound: i-xxii, 1504 pp. index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 12, The Wilderness Years, 1929-1935,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2009.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume V: Companion. Part 2: Documents: The Wilderness Years, 1929-1935. (Heinemann, 1981 Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
Hardbound: i-xviii, 1404 pp index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 13, The Coming of War, 1936-1939,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2009.
Originally: Winston S. Churchill. Volume V: Companion. Part 3: Documents: The Coming of War, 1936-1939. Heinemann, 1982 Houghton Mifflin 1983.
Hardbound: i-xx, 1684 pp. index.
For Volume VI (three volumes)
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 14, At the Admiralty, September 1939-May 1940,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2011.
Originally: The Churchill War Papers. Volume 1: At the Admiralty, September 1939-May 1940. London: Heinemann and New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.
Hardbound: i-xx, 1370 pp. 1 facsimile, maps index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 15, Never Surrender, May 1940-December 1940, edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2011.
Originally: The Churchill War Papers. Volume 2: Never Surrender, May 1940-December 1940. Heinemann and W.W. Norton, 1994.
Hardbound: i-xxxii, 1360 pp. ill., facsimiles, map index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 16, The Ever Widening War, 1941,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2011.
Originally: The Churchill War Papers. Volume 3: The Ever-Widening War, 1941. Heinemann and W.W. Norton, 2000.
Hardbound: i-lxvi, 1822 pp. ill., maps index.
For Volume VII (five volumes)
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 17, Testing Times, 1942,edited by Martin Gilbert. Hillsdale College Press, 2013.
Hardbound: i-xxxii, 1652 pp. index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 18, One Continent Redeemed, January-August 1943,edited by Martin Gilbert and Larry P. Arnn, Hillsdale College Press, 2015.
Hardbound: i-xxii, 2472 pp. facsimiles index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 19, Fateful Questions, September 1943-April 1944, edited by Martin Gilbert and Larry P. Arnn. Hillsdale College Press, 2017.
Hardbound: i-xiiv, 2728 pp. index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 20, Normandy and Beyond, May-December 1944,edited by Martin Gilbert and Larry P. Arnn, Hillsdale College Press, 2018.
Hardbound: i-xxii, 2576 pp. index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 21, The Shadows of Victory, January-July 1945,edited by Martin Gilbert and Larry P. Arnn, Hillsdale College Press, 2018.
Hardbound: i-xxx, 2150 pp. index.
For Volume VIII (two volumes)
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 22, Leader of the Opposition, August 1945-September 1951,edited by Martin Gilbert and Larry P. Arnn. Hillsdale College Press, 2019.
Hardbound: i-xlii, 2328 pp. index.
The Churchill Documents, Vol. 23, Never Flinch, Never Weary, October 1951-January 1965, edited by Martin Gilbert and Larry P. Arnn. Hillsdale College Press, 2019.
Hardbound: i-xl, 2488 pp. index.
Dr. Arnn is President of Hillsdale College, editor-in-chief of The Churchill Documents, and author of Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Survival of Free Government. Dr. Capet is Professor Emeritus of British Studies at University of Rouen, France and author of Churchill: Le Dictionnaire.
Winston Churchill, Author and Historian
WHO was Winston Churchill’s speechwriter? This is a question I am frequently asked in America. Conditioned to modern day politicians who, all too often, have not just one, but a whole team of speechwriters—not to mention staffers to write Op-Ed pieces that appear under their boss’s name and ghostwriters to script their books—Americans are filled with disbelief when I reply, “Churchill did not have a speechwriter—he wrote them all himself.”
That, of course, is why his speeches were outstanding. In the case of his great wartime speeches, my grandfather would regularly devote an hour of preparation to each minute of delivery. Thus it was not unusual for him to spend thirty to forty hours preparing a single speech. What politician does that today? Perhaps that is why, even fifty years on, his speeches have the power to stir and thrill those who listen to them.
While Churchill is best known as a statesman and the leader of an embattled Britain in World War II, it was with his pen that he earned his living, having been left penniless at the age of twenty by the premature death of his father. His work as an author and historian, though less wellknown, is every bit as remarkable as his contribution in the field of politics. (See also “Winston Churchill: The Art of the Statesman-Writer,” FH 102.)
After World War I he turned his newly acquired home of Chartwell, in the rolling Kent landscape, into a literary factory where the lights would burn to a late hour every evening, most especially during the 1930s, his years in the political wilderness when he was out of office. He would employ a team of up to half a dozen “gentlemanresearchers,” for the most part Oxford graduates, who would work for him part-time, preparing material and doing research work. In addition, he had a raft of half a dozen secretaries, at least two of whom would remain on duty until he retired for the night.
Churchill was his own stern taskmaster, driving himself and all around him from morning until the early hours, churning out articles, speeches and chapters for books. My father Randolph recorded an example of this when, as a boy of 18, he accompanied his father on a journey across the United States and Canada in 1929: “I remember how on a very hot train journey in California, or perhaps further north, he shut himself up in his own small compartment and wrote the article [for The Strand Magazine] which was overdue. He had, for at least the last thirty years, had the habit of dictating everything, but he had no secretary with him. In two or three hours he wrote in his own hand an article of 2000-3000 words, which he read to us at dinner.
“He did not do this so just because he needed the money: he had a sense of guilt which he felt he must expiate. I remember complimenting him on the article when he read it to us. ‘You know,’ he replied, ‘I hate to go to bed at night feeling I have done nothing useful in the day. It is the same feeling as if you had gone to bed without brushing your teeth.'”
One of our honorary members, Miss Grace Hamblin, who is in her 90s and still living close to Chartwell in the village of Westerham, first came to my grandfather as a secretary in 1930. The hours were long. She recalls that even when my grandfather had dinner guests, which was most evenings, the guests would be encouraged to leave or go to bed by about 11 PM when the two secretaries on the “late shift” would be summoned. Work would continue until two or three in the morning. Indeed it was by burning the midnight oil that he achieved such a phenomenal output, doing his best work in the quiet hours of the night when there were no interruptions, such as visitors or the telephone, to distract him. If, in the watches of the night, any of the team showed signs of flagging, my grandfather would rally them—as would my father after him—with the following lines of verse:
“The heights achieved by men, and kept,
were not attained by sudden flight,
but they, while their companions slept,
were toiling upwards through the night!”
When, finally, he wrapped up everything for which he felt responsible and called it a day, Miss Hamblin, a girl in her early twenties, would walk home alone, half an hour’s distance along dark, unlit lanes. But even the “late shift” had to be back with everything typed up in time for the boss’s awakening at 8:30 AM!
AS A BOY of five or six years of age, in the years immediately following the Second World War, I would . spend considerable parts of my school holidays with my grandparents at Chartwell. At about 9 each morning I would make my way through my grandfather’s study on the first floor, with its high vaulted ceiling and old oak beams, his works of reference on the shelves and galley-proofs of his latest book set out on his upright desk where he would stand to make his corrections, and through to his small bedroom beyond. There, through the thick haze of cigar smoke, I would find the venerable Grandpapa. He would be propped up in bed, wearing a quilted silk bed jacket. Before him was a bed-table, cut out to accommodate the shape of his ample belly! To his right, on a narrow bookshelf would stand a weak whisky and soda, from which he would take the occasional sip. While puffing one of his Havana cigars, usually a Romeo y Julieta, he would be dictating a speech or a letter to one of the secretaries.
On my arrival, peering above his gold-rimmed, half-lens spectacles, he would break into a beaming smile and would promptly dismiss the secretary so that we could discuss our plans of the day, which would invariably include visits to the golden orfe, his large fish which lurked in the series of ponds he had built in the garden the black swans with their scarlet bills, a gift of the Government of Australia and, last but by no means least, his pigs in the farmyard. Frequently, if it was not raining, he would make time for an hour or two bricklaying. He was at the time engaged in completing a high wall around his large kitchen garden with the help of a couple of professional bricklayers. Well do I recall the many happy hours we would spend together. I would pass him the bricks while he would mix up his “pug,” as he called the sand and cement mixture he used to bond one course of bricks upon the next.
Though he was by then in his late seventies and still a Member of Parliament, indeed, Leader of the Opposition—and yet to return as Prime Minister for four years—the main work in hand at the time was the writing of The Second World War, recently voted by National Review the nonfiction work of the century. Later, I was there when he was working on the completion of his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, a four-volume work spanning two millennia of British history from Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 55BC to the dawn of the 20th century.
Buried in among this work were some wonderful chapters on the history of America, from the voyages of discovery, through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, right up to the middle of the 20th century. But Churchill’s writings on America remained largely unknown beyond the circle of true aficionados. This is an omission which has been repaired with the publication for the first time in its own right of his history of America, which I have entitled The Great Republic—the name he used with great fondness to refer to the United States, the land of his mother’s birth.
I feel very privileged to have been able to get to know my grandfather on such an intimate and personal basis, for I was 24 before he died. It is impossible not be awestruck by the sheer volume of his lifetime’s output. By the time of his death in 1965, at the age of 90, he had published over fifty volumes of history, biography and speeches. As a talented amateur artist he had painted over 500 canvasses, some of remarkable quality. As a builder, he had built largely with his own hands three cottages, as well as the massive wall I helped him with and, in between times, he even managed to beat the daylights out of Hitler. His was a remarkable life to which none can hold a candle.
Mr. Churchill is an honorary member of The Churchill Center and Societies and a Churchill Center Trustee and Associate. His latest book is The Great Republic, a comprehensive collection of his grandfather’s writings about America, which was reviewed Finest Hour 104.
From The World Crisis 1916-1918, concluding words of Chapter XXIII]
1918 Armistice: London XL.1/Decca WSC 1
From the Second World War, vol. 1, The Gathering Storm
Follies of the Victors [Chapter 1] & Lurking Dangers [Ch. 3]: London XL.2
Adolf Hitler [Ch. 4] & The Locust Years [Ch. 5]: London XL.3
Air Parity Lost [Ch. 7] & The Loaded Pause [Ch. 12]: London XL.4
Mr. Eden at the Foreign Office. His Resignation [Ch. 14]: London XL.5
Munich Winter [Ch. 18]: London XL.6
The Soviet Enigma [Ch. 20] & Before the Storm [Ch. 32]: London XL.8
Narvik [Ch. 34], Frustration in Norway [Ch. 36] & The Fall of the Government [Ch. 38]: London XL.9
From the Second World War, vol. 2, Their Finest Hour
The National Coalition [Ch. 1]: London XL.9
Desert Victory [Ch. 31] & The Battle of France and The March to the Sea [Ch. 2-4]: London XL.10
The Battle of Britain [Ch. 16] & The Deliverance of Dunkirk [Ch. 5]: London XL.11
The French Agony [Ch. 9] & Admiral Darlan and the French Fleet [Ch. 11]
At Bay [Ch. 13], Back to France [Ch. 7] & Home Defence [Ch. 8]: London XL.12
Winston Churchill’s Death: January 24, 1964
Although his political and scientific predictions can be attributed to his historical imagination, some of Winston Churchill’s predictions defy easy explanation. Perhaps the most remarkable of these was his accurate prediction of the date of his own death.
While shaving one morning in 1953, Churchill remarked to John Colville, “Today is the 24th of January. It’s the day my father died. It’s the day I shall die, too.” He repeated this prediction to his son-in-law Christopher Soames shortly after his ninetieth birthday, in 1964. A few weeks later, on January 10, 1965, Churchill lapsed into a coma. Earlier that evening, during the nightly ritual of brandy and cigars, he had said to Soames, “It has been a grand journey, well worth making.” He paused and added, “once.”
After he was stricken, the Times commented, “Life is clearly ebbing away, but how long it will be until the crossing of the bar it is impossible to say.” Not for the first time the Times was wrong about Churchill. It was possible to say how long it would be—Churchill had already said it. Colville told the queen’s private secretary, “He won’t die until the 24th.” Though Churchill seldom regained consciousness in the two weeks that followed, he survived to the predicted date. Churchill had survived his father by precisely three score and ten years—the full biblical lifetime—and had fulfilled many of his father’s ambitions as well as his own.
Political career before 1939
The five years after Sandhurst saw Churchill’s interests expand and mature. He relieved the tedium of army life in India by a program of reading designed to repair the deficiencies of Harrow and Sandhurst, and in 1899 he resigned his commission to enter politics and make a living by his pen. He first stood as a Conservative at Oldham, where he lost a by-election by a narrow margin, but found quick solace in reporting the South African War for The Morning Post (London). Within a month after his arrival in South Africa he had won fame for his part in rescuing an armoured train ambushed by Boers, though at the price of himself being taken prisoner. But this fame was redoubled when less than a month later he escaped from military prison. Returning to Britain a military hero, he laid siege again to Oldham in the election of 1900. Churchill succeeded in winning by a margin as narrow as that of his previous failure. But he was now in Parliament and, fortified by the £10,000 his writings and lecture tours had earned for him, was in a position to make his own way in politics.
A self-assurance redeemed from arrogance only by a kind of boyish charm made Churchill from the first a notable House of Commons figure, but a speech defect, which he never wholly lost, combined with a certain psychological inhibition to prevent him from immediately becoming a master of debate. He excelled in the set speech, on which he always spent enormous pains, rather than in the impromptu Lord Balfour, the Conservative leader, said of him that he carried “heavy but not very mobile guns.” In matter as in style he modeled himself on his father, as his admirable biography, Lord Randolph Churchill (1906 revised edition 1952), makes evident, and from the first he wore his Toryism with a difference, advocating a fair, negotiated peace for the Boers and deploring military mismanagement and extravagance.
Smital Patel's Blog
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, PC, DL, FRS, Hon. RA (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice (1940–45 and 1951–55). A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, and an artist. He is the only British prime minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.
Churchill was born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer his mother, Jenny Jerome, an American socialite. As a young army officer, he saw action in British India, the Sudan and the Second Boer War. He gained fame as a war correspondent and through books he wrote 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 the Asquith Liberal government. During the war, he continued as First Lord of the Admiralty until the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign, which he had sponsored, caused his departure from government. He then served briefly on the Western Front, commanding the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He returned to government as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air. After the War, Churchill served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative (Baldwin) government of 1924–29, 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. Also controversial were Churchill's opposition to increased home rule for India, and his resistance to the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII.
Out of office and politically "in the wilderness" during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in warning about the danger from Hitler and in campaigning for rearmament. On 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 steadfast refusal to consider defeat, surrender or a compromise peace helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the War when Britain stood alone in its active opposition to Hitler. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people. He led Britain as Prime Minister until victory had been secured over Nazi Germany.
After the Conservative Party lost the 1945 election, he became Leader of the Opposition. In 1951, he again became Prime Minister, before retiring in 1955. Upon his death, Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen ever. [ 1 ] Named the Greatest Briton of all-time in a 2002 poll, Churchill is widely regarded as being among the most influential men in British history.