In other sections of this history blog can be found brief lives of Franklin Roosevelt (All American Presidents) and Joseph Stalin. Joined by Churchill at a number of special meetings at the end of the Second World War, these three supremely powerful grandfathers divided up the world; they awarded nation after nation to Stalin’s Soviet Russia, thus leading to the Iron Curtain, Russo/American political conflict, the Cold War, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Berlin Wall, the astonishing rise of The American Empire (qv) and the inevitable fall of the British Empire (qv).
Opinions from allies such as the French and the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations were not heeded. But at least the three had very little to do with the creation within three years of the State of Israel, which, though it is not necessarily the fault of the Israelis, has caused 99% of the world’s unrest since, and is the root cause of all Middle Eastern issues.
Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) was a younger brother of the Duke of Marlborough, and was therefore born an aristocrat. He was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and a lady from New York called Jennie Jerome. He was also a descendent of the Ist Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, who won a lot of wars for England two centuries before Winston’s birth, and for whom a grateful nation built the enormous palace of Blenheim in Oxfordshire. Sadly, they gave John a dukedom and a palace but the family never had enough money to sustain either in the style to which they would liked to be accustomed.
As a boy Winston was educated first at a preparatory school where he was bullied by other boys and constantly whipped by a sadistic headmaster; this treatment made the young Winston determined never to be beaten in questions of debate, or tests of bravery. The resolution stayed with him all his life.
As a youth Winston was sent to Harrow School, where he triumphed in the army cadets, debate and sport, but failed miserably in every subject but the English language. As a young officer in the Army, he was present at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, but the British Army had no time for this forthright and out-spoken young man, and he became a war correspondent. He reported for British papers from the Boer War, during which he was captured (by the Boers) much to the relief of many Englishmen who always found him pushy, prosy and opinionated both in his personal life and his writings. He escaped from the Afrikaaners however and returned to London where he became a member of the Unionist Party in 1900. Unionists later became Conservatives, and when Churchill became an MP he memorably ‘crossed the floor’ to the Liberals in 1904, showing that in England, at least, switching political parties is considered an act of conscience, not treachery, as it is seen, for example, in Spain.
In 1906 – 1908 he was Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (at 32), and achieved membership in Asquith’s reforming cabinet in 1908. Always popular with the man-in-the-street, but never with his fellow politicians, Churchill already had, in his early thirties, a reputation as a thrusting and energetic man of few scruples and a thousand tricks up his sleeve. He was, as indeed he had been at Harrow, a marvellous orator, capable even of using his natural stammer to great effect in his speeches. No politician has ever had his timing, though many who followed, including John F. Kennedy and Harold Macmillan, were close followers of his style.
As a Liberal, he introduced the idea of the Labour Exchanges, at which unemployed working men could seek jobs. He supported the arch-trickster Lloyd George’s Insurance Bill in Parliament in 1911. In 1911 he worked at the Admiralty and was directly responsible for the modernizing and refitting of the British Navy, so much so that it was ready just in time to meet Germany’s when the First World War exploded in 1914.
Churchill had a good idea which turned to dust when he organised the expedition to the Dardanelles to smash the Turks. The failure was only partly his. Army and Navy leadership were not up to Churchill’s exacting standards, and the Dardanelles have always remained a black mark against the Churchill name, though the results of the campaign were not all bad. Bad enough however for him to resign, and fight as a soldier again, this time on the Western Front, where he served bravely and well, though no senior officer wanted to have a man like Churchill under his command.
In 1917 he was Minister of Munitions, and in 1918 (the last year of the conflict) he became Minister for War and Air, though in order to do so he had to cross the floor again and become a Conservative. After the War he became Chancellor of the Exchequer (second only in British political power to the Prime Minister) in which position he stayed from 1924 to 1929. As Chancellor he insisted on a return to the Gold Standard, which indirectly brought serious consequences, including the General Strike. Winston Churchill was a bellicose and unforgiving man, and it must be said that his belligerent attitude towards the workers did not ease the situation.
By the 1930s he was out of a job; he returned to journalism and set about becoming a serious and rather good painter. Like Hitler, Churchill was good at rustic landscapes. Soon unable to avoid returning to politics, he became almost a single voice in denouncing the sinister activities of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Austria. He became First Lord of the Admiralty, and in this capacity he oversaw a huge renovation of Britain’s war fleet, especially submarines and their essential bases and ‘mother ships’.
When Chamberlain was at last seen as vain and useless, the British public (but not his colleagues) demanded the premiership for Churchill, and, just in time, he took over Britain’s leadership, along with a thankful King George VI and his wife Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who had always been close friends.
As war leader (not war lord as his detractors insist) Churchill was constantly superb in maintaining popular morale (it was said that ‘he mobilized the English language and sent it to war’), and a close relationship with the USA and the Commonwealth. Some historians have pointed out that Adolf cannot have seen the obvious: if he declared war against Britain, he was declaring war against Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, a quarter of Africa, India, Burma, most of the Caribbean and much of the Pacific. This was not the reasoning of an intelligent leader.
Churchill had always been popular with the Americans (the American mother you see?) just as Harold Macmillan would be later, and for the same reason. Together with Roosevelt he was instrumental in designing the Atlantic Charter as a defensive and attacking fortress for the free world. Always distrustful of Soviet ambitions and expansionism, he was concerned that Roosevelt should not concede too many of Stalin’s outlandish demands as the Second War drew to its close after six long years of war and millions of deaths among the armed forces and (for the first time in History) unarmed and horrified civilians. He was unable to persuade the historically and politically myopic Roosevelt to see his views at Yalta, and the result we can see without too much effort to this day.
Having been their voice, and the voice that encouraged them and urged them to victory, the British people turned against him in 1945, and he lost the General Election to the Labour Party. The man who had been his deputy prime minister throughout the War, Clement Atlee, headed the socialist government that strived to keep Britain under almost wartime conditions of hardship and near starvation until 1951. It should be clear by now to even the least intelligent voter that Socialism means Big and Costly Government paid for by reluctant taxpayers whose opinion is not sought. Luckily Churchill was still around in 1951, when he was made Prime Minister again, though this time he did not have to cross the floor.
As PM, he was anxious that Britain should see the urgent need for Western unity during the Cold War, and it was he who established ‘the special relationship’ with the USA. He was also writing and painting, even as his health failed. His masterpiece in letters is History of the English-speaking Peoples. A thorough master of the English language, he made a splendid orator in Britain (broadcast around the world by the BBC), an indefatigable parliamentarian, a prolific writer and a much more than average painter. He died in 1965 and was deservedly awarded a State Funeral by the Queen.