Winston Churchill (November 20, 1874 - January 24, 1965)

Winston Spencer Churchill

Prime Minister of Great Britain

In office: 1939 - 1946

Preceded by:

Neville Chamberlain

Succeeded by:

Clement Attlee

Chancellor of the Exchequer

In office: 1926 - 1929

Preceded by:

Stanley Baldwin

Succeeded by:

Philip Snowden

Foreign Secretary

In office: 1920 - 1926

Preceded by:

John Stein

Succeeded by:

Dianne M. Keller

MP for Caernarvon

In office: 1898 - 1952

Preceded by: Donald Mackenzie

Succeeded by:



November 30 1878, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Great Britain


January 24 1965, Chartwell, Kent, England, Great Britain



Political party:



Clementine (1904 - 1965)


Diana, Randolph, Sarah, Marigold Mary

Alma mater:

Harrow School


Soldier, Politician



In 1893 Churchill left Harrow, joining RMA Sandhurst. He tried to join the infantry, but was refused after failing the first exam. He then joined the cavalry, passing the course and becoming a lieutenant (thanks to his father’s influence) in September 1893. He served in several garrisons in 1893 – 1894. In may 1894 he was posted to Prussia to observe their summer maneuvers. Churchill was greatly impressed by the order and efficiency of the Prussian soldiers, remarking that they were “the finest in Europe”.

Upon his return to Britain he personally reported to Field Marshal Sir Donald Stewart, the C in C of the British Army, about the preparedness of the Prussian forces. The Field Marshal was impressed with Churchill’s “absorbance of events”, and immediately promoted him to Captain. After three weeks of leave he was called on to conduct a brief military observation of the armies of France, Spain, Bavaria and Sweden. This took him an entire year, finally returning to London in September 1895.

He then returned to garrison service. In December 1895 he wrote an article for the Times, stating his view that were a war to occur in Europe that it would not be a short conflict. Churchill argued that all major European armies (with the exemption of Russia and Poland) had a well-trained regular cadre, and the logistical efficiency to call up a vast force of reserves within a matter of weeks. He stated that this was result in large armies of almost equal strength, and long, bloody battles. The article went down a storm with the public, and with the army as it was much bolder writing than his official report.

Overnight Churchill went from being a young army officer, to the most well known junior officer of his generation. However the army did not like celebrities. In 1896 Churchill was posted as a junior attaché to the comparatively small and obscure Mexican army. However they could not stop Churchill’s flow of correspondents to a host of newspapers, commenting on the political and cultural situation of Mexico (then still in the grip of the Diaz dictatorship).

Then in November 1896 a revolution erupted in Cuba against their Spanish colonial master’s. Without official permission Churchill boarded a cargo ship and sailed across the Caribbean to the Island, establishing himself a crude observation centre in central Havana. He continued to send out daily telegrams across the Atlantic, with the Times finding out about Churchill’s presence on the island before the government. In February 1897 the situation became even more interesting when the American battleship USS Maine entered Havana Harbour to prevent a Spanish troop build up and to implement the Jackson Doctrine. Then on February 15, 1898 the USS Maine exploded in mysterious circumstances (suspected of being Spanish sabotage). President McKinley asked congress to declare war, they did and less than a month later the first US troops landed on the island.

Churchill was able to tour the frontline, incognito, conducting interviews with several American military commanders. In April he met an American colonel who had funded his own volunteer cavalry regiment, Theodore Roosevelt. He attached himself to Roosevelt’s volunteer regiment, writing a diary about life with them (which he was to publish in 1907) and continuing to write weekly reports to the army about the situation there. Unknown to Churchill was that the army had already dispatched a small group of officers to bring Churchill back, but the ship they were travelling on was rerouted to Brazil following the escalation of the conflict.

Churchill remained with Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, accompanying the Colonel himself during the latter stages of the battle of San Juan Hill. But in August 1897 the government contacted the British Consul, asking that he terminate Churchill’s commission, dishonourably discharging him. But Churchill was tipped off about this before the consul could convey the news formally. This gave Churchill the opportunity to resign rather than be sacked (and be discharged honourably), an opportunity he took. On September 3rd 1897 he formally resigned from the British army and boarded an American transport chip to Charleston. From there he took a train to San Francisco, and from there a boat to Australia. He spent a month traveling across Australia, before getting a boat from Sydney to Alexandria in Egypt.

The journey took five weeks, and when he did arrive in Alexandria in February 1898 he was greeted by terrible news. By chance he saw a copy of the Times, reporting on the funeral of former prime minister Randolph Churchill, and the disappearance of his son.

Churchill cut his stay in Alexandria short, getting a boat to Brindisi, a train to Copenhagen, then another boat to Harwich. He arrived in London on March 20, over a month after his father’s funeral. He stayed in London with a friend from the Army, vowing to live up to his father’s expectations. He contacted Joseph Chamberlain, the Tory leader, asking if he could succeed his father in his seat at Paddington South (a by- election was not held, his death being so close to an election). Chamberlain agreed, with Churchill winning the seat in the election in April as a conservative.

Churchill’s political career got off to a good start, becoming almost as active in the house as his father had been 10 years before. He made good political friendships with Austen Chamberlain, Arthur Balfour and most importantly the Liberal MP David Lloyd George. The conservatives won the 1898 election, with Joseph Chamberlain forming a government. Churchill was not initially selected as a member of cabinet. In 1900 he supported Arthur Balfour’s move to topple Joseph Chamberlain as Tory leader and prime minister. Balfour succeeded, and Churchill was rewarded by becoming President of the Board of Trade (at 25 years old). He initially opposed plans to expand the British navy in term of ships (whilst still supporting modernisation and replacement of existing vessels), but suffered a change of heart following an American naval build-up. This U-turn damaged the government, and Churchill’s reputation amongst other conservative MP’s, but he was still perceived by the public as an adventurer and war hero (despite not having officially fought in a battle).

After the 1902 election – which resulted in a second conservative victory (but with their majority halved) Churchill was promoted to Home Secretary. He was only given the post to stop him meddling in Foreign affairs, and because Balfour felt obliged to keep the popular Churchill in the cabinet. In his new post he advocated using force to quell civil unrest and taking a tough line on the growing trade union and women’s suffrage movements. He also ordered military intelligence to infiltrate the rapidly growing Labour party. Churchill feared revolutionary movements after witnessing them in Mexico and Cuba, and thought the Labour party a subversive, revolutionary movement.

Churchill remained as Home Secretary until 1906, when the liberal’s won a decisive landslide. Churchill nearly lost his own seat in the election. However, Churchill did see his chance to climb further up the party ladder. It was clear that Balfour was yesterday’s man and although Churchill (still only 32) knew he was too young for the top job, he desperately wanted the foreign secretariat. Churchill spent the rest of 1906 compiling his correspondents from his military career into books, releasing them in five volumes in 1907. He began writing a biography of his father, and his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough, but postponed the projects when in 1908 he was invited by the then Governor Roosevelt to accompany him on part of his presidential campaign.

Churchill agreed, and took several hundred copies of his books with him. He traveled with Roosevelt from July to September, making it into a sort of holiday. His books sold remarkably well, and he gave several spurs of the moment speeches to republican gatherings. He memorably stated, “The future belongs to the two great English speaking powers of the world, we have a duty, to history, to unite together for the coming storm”. The speech became a sensation, and when the time came for him to return to Britain he received a hero’s goodbye from New York.

When Churchill returned to Britain he was met with no such hero’s welcome. Although he was still popular he had been accused of warmongering by both the liberal and conservative press. Consequently Churchill’s relationship to Balfour became similar to that of his father with the latter’s uncle, Lord Salisbury. He criticised Balfour and Asquith, the new liberal prime minister, of “avoiding the elephant in the room, the crumbling empire’s of Europe cannot be sustained far into the 20th century”. Balfour was furious with Churchill, and hoped he went off “doing impressions of a failing traveling salesman again”.

He was invited to President Roosevelt’s inauguration in January 1909, but regretfully informed him that he would be unable to attend. In the spring of 1909 Churchill toyed with the idea of forming a new political party, or organising a revolt of backbench Tories against Balfour. But even Churchill was not willing to destroy his own political party for personal gain. He spent most of the year completing his biographies of his father and ancestor, publishing them in August. Despite receiving critical acclaim, they did not become a hit, and failed to take off in America. Churchill appeared to be in the political wilderness, fearful of embarrassing his party, yet unable

To toe the party line.

He had met Clementine Hozier in 1904, and again upon his return to Britain in 1908. They married in June 1909.

Just as it seemed like the young Winston’s front bench political career was over at the age of 34, he was saved. His savior came in the form of his old friend David Lloyd George, who had become chancellor following Asquith’s accession o the premiership in 1908. Lloyd George’s budget of 1909 was the most far reaching, and controversial, in British history up to that point. If implemented it would see a vast social welfare programme set up, an attempt to end poverty, and set up a proper education system. It was supported by Asquith, his cabinet and the majority of the liberal party and the entire Labour Party who hailed it as “the first step on a long road” , but not by the conservatives or more conservative minded Liberal’s. The result was deadlock in the commons, and an early election scheduled for September 1909.

Churchill personally opposed the budget, but felt obliged to support his friend, and sometimes political ally, Lloyd George. Consequently he abstained from the crucial commons vote, and was able to privately convince several other conservatives to do so.

Churchill held onto his seat in the election, with a slightly increased majority. Nationwide the results were a slight swing to the Tories, but not much. The main beneficiary of the election was the Labour Party, who gained seats in inner city areas. Churchill used the failure of the conservatives to strike a strong blow against Asquith as a pretext to attack Balfour once again. He was not alone. Joseph Chamberlain, supported by his son Austen, launched an attack on Balfour’s “poor leadership, and lack of it”. Despite these numerous attacks Balfour was just able to cling onto the leadership of the party. He argued that Chamberlain was too old (72) to become party leader, and that none of the other possible candidates were too inexperienced to possibly become prime minister.

Churchill seriously considered leaving the party, and joining with the conservative, free trade wing of the liberal party. But Churchill was saved yet again, this time by Asquith who in an attempt to increase his parliamentary majority held a second election in May 1910. The result was similar to the previous election, but this time both the Liberal’s and conservatives lost seats to Labour, with Asquith just being able to form a majority government. More significant for Churchill, was that Balfour was blamed for the defeat. It was not the worst result imaginable, with some Tories previously privately predicting loses twice the number they actually were. Consequently Balfour was allowed to resign honourably from the leadership, still maintaining a front bench position. This created a power vacuum, with Walter Long, Joseph Chamberlain and Andrew Bonar Law vying for power.

The party chose Bonar Law, Churchill remained quiet on the issue for he didn’t think any of the candidates his sort of leader. After his defeat for the leadership Joseph Chamberlain retired to the backbenches, with his son Austen becoming a much more credible, and more prominent figure in the party. Churchill also became more prominent, no longer a brash young Tory, but a more considered more senior conservative. He was able to persuade Bonar Law to send him to America to meet Roosevelt on a good will visit. Churchill spent 12 days in discussions with Roosevelt at his Montana ranch, remarking that the president was a “poor shooter, but a keen one”. The two politicians spent most nights looming over a large map of the world that Roosevelt had etched onto a table in his conference room, setting out vague foreign policy cooperation plans between the two countries. Despite him being in opposition Roosevelt wrote that Churchill was very well informed about current international events and diplomatic situations. Churchill returned to Britain and told Bonar Law that the President was concerned about the military power of Russia. The Tory leader politely thanked Churchill for the visit but was privately angry that he had expanded a simple good will visit into a diplomatic discussion.

Churchill then calmly retired from the hurly burly of front line politics to write a series of essays about his views on war, the economy, the liberal and conservative parties, the French empire, America and his thought for the future. Churchill predicted that the next election would be the most decisive of the 20th century and that the conservatives must do everything possible to win it, he predicted (wrongly) that Asquith would not be prime minister when the next election was held but that he would be in the cabinet. But the most telling of Churchill’s predictions was that France and Russia would fall, and Britain, Germany and America would rise, and that a war between these great world powers was inevitable. He then spent 2 months in Prussia and Bavaria, meeting dignitaries. He was given a guard of honour when he arrived in Kiel, despite not being in government.

By Christmas 1910 it was clear Churchill was on the political rise again, and the most well known British politician of his age. Lloyd George pleaded with Asquith to allow Churchill to enter the government as a junior minister, Asquith refused. In early 1911 Lloyd George asked Asquith to send “Churchill and a battleship” to help deal with the Moroccan crisis, to which a young Tory Mp relied “What’s the difference?”. Asquith relented, primarily because the foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey was negotiating in Paris. Churchill boarded HMS Dreadnought only hours later, arriving in Agadir bay a week later. Churchill supported the German’s in the dispute, whereas Grey held a much more neutral and peaceful position. Grey was able to get the French government to agree not to send any ships to Morocco, but that KMS Panther and HMS Dreadnought must leave the port by August 1st. Meanwhile Churchill sent a message to the French military governor, demanding Moroccan independence or the Dreadnought would open fire. After a week of stalemate the General agreed to withdraw his troops as long as the British and German vessels left.

Churchill’s actions proved very divisive amongst cabinet, parties and parliament. Some praised Churchill’s integrity, others accused him of being dangerous and a warmonger. He accused Asquith of being completely incapable of leading a country in times of international crisis such as Morocco, and began a cross party unofficial petition of MP’s arguing for Asquith’s resignation. The petition, as expected, received support only from Tory hardliners and a few liberal’s who thought Asquith a goof peacetime premier, but not a cool and contained negotiator.

Following this Churchill was forced back into the shadows of politics, undertaking a lecture tour of Britain in the Autumn of 1911, stating his views argued in his essays. 1912 was to be a very quiet year for Churchill, who spent virtually the entire year writing a biography of the Duke of Wellington. In the whole of 1912 Churchill made only 5 speeches in the house.

1913 was to be a completely different matter, with the conflict between the suffragettes and the government becoming much more violent, especially after Roosevelt introduced women’s suffrage in the US. Churchill was a keen opponent of women’s suffrage, arguing for longer sentences for suffragettes and the deportation of Mrs Pankhurst. In March 1913 Churchill’s house was fire bombed by Suffragettes, and he narrowly avoided being killed. Following this incident Churchill received a police bodyguard and hired private detectives. He criticised the Home secretary Reginald McKenna of going soft on the perpetrators. In April Churchill embarked on a round the world tour – an ambitious project that would take him a year.

He left from Harwich to Copenhagen, then got a train to Athens, and a boat to Cairo. He spent a week in Egypt before heading through the Suez canal to Mumbai, and then to Australia. After a month in Australia Churchill traveled briefly to Hawaii, then to Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Gran Colombia. He spent Christmas in Panama. He had planned to travel through Mexico, but was dissuaded by his companions. Instead he traveled to Haiti, and observed US troops putting down the Haitian revolt. He then traveled to America, spending two months visiting every state and meeting most senior politicians such as Woodrow Wilson, Elihu Root, George Dewey and William H. Taft. He arrived back in London exactly 364 days after he left.

Churchill arrived 5 days before the general election, in which he held onto his seat. But the situation across the country was very different. The liberal party had only two seats more than the conservatives, and were in a minority. Asquith refused to form a coalition with Labour, asking the conservatives to support his government. Bonar Law refused to serve under Asquith, demanding he resign and serve under himself. Asquith refused the demand and formed a minority government.

Just over a month after the election, the commander of the French army was assassinated in Berlin, the war Churchill had predicted had arrived.

Churchill was at his club in London when news reached him about the assassination of Marshal Bonaparte in Berlin. He immediately rushed to parliament, making it in time to here the foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey’s, response to the incident. Grey stated, “This issue is one of great importance. The events of this morning have shaken Europe, and the world, and we must not let our competence or policies waver”. After Grey had made his statement Churchill rose from the opposite benches. He demanded that “for the sake of the country” Asquith resign and allow another man to lead a Liberal-Conservative war coalition government. Asquith refused to resign, citing that “In this grave time we need a man of experience to lead the country” and that it was his duty to remain in office. Parliament then voted on whether to call up reservists, the liberals and the conservatives were overwhelmingly in favour, Labour was divided despite their leader, Ramsay MacDonald’s strong pacifism. As the situation in Europe deteriorated Churchill sat in meetings with liberal backbenchers, persuading them to rally behind his political ally, Lloyd George, and elevate him to the premiership. On May 10th France declared war on Prussia, with Austria and Bavaria supporting their fellow Germans the following day. Later that week the Netherlands joined the war on the German side, followed by a Prussian backed Swiss revolution on May 18th. On May 20th Russia formed an alliance with France, followed by its puppet Poland.

Meanwhile Churchill and Lloyd George expanded support for a coalition. Churchill was able to persuade 89 of the 271 Tory MP’s to support a Lloyd George led coalition, whilst Lloyd George gathered support from his own party. On May 25th Lloyd George resigned as chancellor, and at an informal ballot amongst liberal MP’s that evening received 151 votes to Asquith’s 112 (10 abstentions). The following day an official ballot was held, with Lloyd George receiving 158 votes to Asquith’s 110 (5 abstentions). Asquith resigned as leader of the Liberal party on May 27th, but still tried to remain prime minister. Lloyd George began forming a coalition from amongst the Liberal and Conservative parties, with the help of Churchill.

The same day he became leader of the liberal party Lloyd George called a meeting with Bonar Law and Austen Chamberlain. There they set out coalition plans. A seven member war cabinet would be set up, to include Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Churchill and others. Bonar Law would be made Deputy Prime Minister, and would support all of the most important decisions. A 12 member standard cabinet would be set up, and would include the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, great office of state holders, senior war cabinet members, and other ministers. They also agreed that two of the great offices of state could be held by conservatives, and one by a liberal. The high ranking party leaders agreed to a coalition. On May 28th the platform was presented to the commons, with a ballot being held. The result were 160 against, 391 for and 39 abstentions. The following day Lloyd George went to the king, and formed a government. He had the support of 268 conservatives, 200 liberals and ten Labour MP’s. The conservatives and liberals were invited into government, the Labour members were not (due to the insistence of the conservatives) giving the new government a majority of 168.

Churchill became home secretary, but did not want the job. Lloyd George joined the war on the German side on June 1st, with the support of all 368 government MP’s. In his office as home secretary Churchill’s main concern was ending the insurgency of the suffragettes and organising a home front. After exactly a month in office Churchill resigned, taking the post of minister without portfolio in the war cabinet. He had always wanted to be in the war cabinet, but Bonar Law and Balfour – still a leading voice in the Tory party – objected. Now Lloyd George had persuaded them.

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