Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, born at Blenheim Palace, near Woodstock (England), November 30, 1874, died in London, January 24, 1965. Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955.
Churchill’s career is from the start outstanding, not as a military man though — he is with the 4th Regiment of Hussars — but as a journalist. In 1899, he covers the South African War for the Morning Post. The narrative of his capture by the Boers, imprisonment and escape makes him the most famous of British reporters.
Churchill is elected to Parliament in 1900. In 1911 he is appointed Lord of the Admiralty and, as such, is responsible for the development of the British Fleet on the eve of WWI. The failure of the attack on the Dardanelles, an operation which he supported, forced him to resign his position. After several years of service on the front in France, he returns to government under Lloyd George, as Minister of Munitions and later as Secretary of State for War and the Air Force, 1918 to 1921. As Secretary of State for the Colonies, he is involved in the negotiations that will lead to the creation of the Irish Free State. Back in the Commons, he is Chancellor of the Exchequer under the Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin from 1924 to 1929. His refusal to innovate and the harshness of the repression against striking workers antagonize the Labour Party.
Although without a portfolio between 1929 and 1939, Churchill remains a public figure through his writings. Throughout the crises that precede the war, he is very critical of the government. When the war erupts in September 1939, Neville Chamberlain appoints him Lord of the Admiralty. In May of the following year, Chamberlain resigns and Churchill becomes Prime Minister. In their struggle against the Third Reich, Great Britain and the nations of the British Commonwealth rally around him, enthused by his oratory talents, his energy, his refusal to surrender.
After the War, Britons long for social reforms and, in the July 1945 elections, favour the Labour Party. Churchill becomes leader of the opposition. Distrustful of the Soviet Union, it was he who coined the phrase “The Iron Curtain” during a meeting in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946. He is elected as Prime Minister again in 1951, knighted in 1953; that same year he receives the Nobel Prize for Literature for his writings and speeches.
Sir Winston Churchill was a major figure of the 20th century. Bold and energetic, the little chubby man with the big cigar was an inspiration for all Canadians fighting for democracy.
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
— Winston Churchill, British House of Commons, 4 June 1940.
- See The Winston Churchill Home Page, Churchill Center, Washington, D.C.