Foundation Course –
Winston Churchill, finding a way through
I. Introduction to Winston Churchill
Who is Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, (November 30, 1874 –January 24, 1965) was a British statesman, better known as the most prominent of the prime ministers of the United Kingdom. People remember Churchill for his priceless contribution to the struggle for peace during the Second World War. But at various times of his life, Churchill was a soldier, author, journalist, painter and politician. Still his achievements as a strong leader in the world history are always put in the first place. Though Churchill is sometimes considered a reactionary on several issues, it was his resoluteness, virile mind and oratorical talent that made him an outstanding personality.
In Churchill's life there were ups and downs, successes and failures. He promoted himself, changing political parties for own career, but he honestly served his country occupying entrusted state posts. Some of his decisions were disastrous, like, for example, landing troops on the Dardanelles during the World War I. However, when the free world had to resist the threat of fascism, it was Churchill's speeches that motivated and inspired people in the most difficult time.
Thesis statement. Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, at Blenheim Palace, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the third son of John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough. Lord Randolph was a famous Tory politician. Winston's mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, was a daughter of American millionaire Leonard Jerome (“BBC News”).
Since Churchill's parents led busy social lives and constantly traveled, Winston spent most of his childhood under the tutelage of his nanny, Elizabeth Everest. Much of his youth passed at boarding schools. He was a student of the Headmaster's House at Harrow School - one of the best British private schools. But young Winston studied poorly at Harrow. He regularly earned penalties for bad works and lack of effort. Churchill was rebellious and independent by nature. He always failed to achieve good results in those subjects that he was not interested in. But he always was at the top of his class in such areas like history and math. He read a lot, including Schopenhauer, Darwin, Malthus and Aristotle. This interest helped him to form a broad outlook and his own style of writing. His last three years at Harrow he spent in the Army class (“New World Encyclopedia”).
After Harrow, Winston entered the Royal Military College Sandhurst. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, whom he admired. But, in order to realize his political ambitions, he needed a reputation and money. The military service could make his reputation, and the journalism could provide his fame and money (“New World Encyclopedia”).
II. Summary of Bio leading up to WWII
Military service. In 1895, Churchill joined the Fourth Hussars. He was not interested in a simple soldier's service, but had plans to become a war correspondent and write for The Daily Graphic. That’s why he wanted to see fighting. So he traveled to Cuba to watch with his own eyes how the Spanish troops put down a rebellion. It was the beginning of Churchill’s long writing career. During his stay in Cuba he wrote military reports and started writing first books (for example, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898), The River War (1899)).
At the time pf the Boer War Churchill worked as a journalist. During the hostilities he felt into an ambush, was captured and jailed. Churchill managed to escape, but he had to make a journey of 480km to the nearest location of the British troops. Fortunately he succeeded and became a national hero (“BBC News”).
Political career. In 1900, Churchill was elected to the parliament as a Conservative member for Oldham. But his views on issues of free trade and social reform contravened to the views of the Conservative Party. Therefore in 1904 Churchill joined the Liberal Party (“New World Encyclopedia”).
In 1905, when the Liberals won the election, Churchill was appointed under-secretary of state for the Colonies. In 1908, Churchill got a promotion and became President of the Board of Trade. In 1910, he became Home Secretary. And within a year, in 1911, Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty. At the beginning of World War I, occupying this post, he made one of his biggest mistakes - the disastrous Dardanelles expedition. During the war he served on the Western Front.
In 1917, Churchill returned to the government and was appointed Minister of Munitions. In 1919-1921 he served as Secretary of State for War and Air. In 1925 he formally rejoined the Conservative Party (“BBC News”).
In 1939, when World War II broke out, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty again. When Neville Chamberlain resigned in 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister.
III. Prime Minister and WWII
Voice of inspiration. Winston Churchill is known not only as an outstanding politician, but also as one of the most brilliant orators of the XX century. His inspiring speeches made history, many of his phrases acquired the status of the concepts of political lexicon. Of course, there are different assessments of Churchill’s statements, but the facts are undeniable - he always managed to encourage huge masses of people to certain actions.
Churchill’s refusal to surrender to Nazi Germany inspired British people. The appointment to the post of Prime Minister on 10 May, 1940 at a critical moment for the country, became crucial for Winston Churchill. That day Hitler launched a blitzkrieg against France and the Benelux countries, and ordered his troops to destroy everything on their path. Then Churchill, who was 65, managed to fully realize his outstanding gift of an orator. For many years politicians had spoken to the British nation only about the need of non-resistance and maintaining peace. And suddenly, people heard a completely different appeal.
Speeches and Broadcasts. More than thirty of Churchill’s speeches had a great importance for international politics. The most significant of them he made during and immediately after World War II.
In his broadcast on May 19, 1940, Churchill said: “I speak to you for the first time as Prime Minister in a solemn hour for the life of our country, of our Empire, of our Allies, and, above all, of the cause of Freedom”. Then he continued: “Our task is not only to win the battle—but to win the War. After this battle in France abates its force, there will come the battle for our island—for all that Britain is, and all that Britain means. That will be the struggle.”
Churchill vividly described the destructive effects of the offensive of the Nazi troops on the continent and set the common goal - to bring this war to a victorious end and do everything possible to avoid slavery and shame, no matter how high the price of victory was, no matter what suffering the people of the United Kingdom had to come through (Crespo-Fernández, 2013).
In his war speeches Churchill urged not to seek an armistice with Hitler and wage the war until victory. After the fall of France, Hitler hoped that Britain would immediately start looking for suitable conditions for the truce. However, Churchill's speech, delivered on 18 June, 1940, was full of enthusiasm and hope. Hitler didn’t want to give the UK a chance to recover after the defeat in France. Battle for Britain was the largest air battle of World War II.
In a speech of 22 June 1941 after the German invasion to the Soviet Union, Churchill outlined the basic principles of British assistance to the Soviet Union in the war. Though Churchill was an ideological opponent of communism and had opposite geopolitical interests, he adhered to the main purpose of destroying fascism.
Churchill’s speeches after the victory reflected the general mood and kept the spirit of national unity. After the war, in his Fulton speech (1946), Churchill again showed himself as a talented politician. This speech had a great response and reaction in all countries, including the USSR.
IV. Critical Relations
Results of making allies. Throughout the war Churchill worked untiringly, building strong relations with the United States. But this didn’t prevent him to establish a sometimes difficult political alliance with the Soviet Union (“BBC News”). Military and political cooperation with the USSR that established during the war was gradually suspended in the postwar period. The USSR claimed on a leading role in post-war Asia and Eastern Europe. Churchill criticized this policy of the Soviet Union and didn’t try to conceal this, emphasizing his attitude in his statements. In course of time, the relationship with the Soviet Union assumed the character of the Cold War. At the same time, cooperation with the United States continued.
Dresden bombing. Shortly before the end of the war (13-15 February, 1945) Dresden was bombed by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain and the Air Force of the USA. Churchill supported the bombing, though Dresden was a civilian target and had a little military value. The necessity of this bombing is still considered controversial. The official version is that the bombing was helpful to the Soviet troops.
About a quarter of industrial enterprises of the city and about half of the buildings (urban infrastructure and homes) were destroyed or seriously damaged during this military operation. The destruction paralyzed the traffic across the city for several weeks.
Victory. Although the importance of Churchill's role in World War II was undeniable, he had many enemies in his own country. Despite the success and national recognition of merit, he defeated in elections of 1945 and became the opposition leader. In the spring of 1945 Churchill deeply dissented in his plans with the mood of the British people (“Winston's War: Churchill 1940-1945,” 2010). They wanted to continue the alliance and cooperation with the USSR. But Churchill didn’t notice this, and, as a result, was defeated in the elections.
End of the war. After Germany's surrender, Churchill promoted the idea to use the American troops, located on the borders of the Soviet Union for getting some important concessions. At the Potsdam Conference Churchill, guided by these considerations, did everything possible to limit the right of the USSR to get fair reparations from Germany.
Churchill remained a significant figure in international politics. Particularly, he supported the idea of European unification. For this reason, one of the three main buildings of the European Parliament is named in honor of Churchill. In the post-war speeches he continued expressing concerns about the Soviet Union and the Cold War.
Continued legacy. Churchill was appointed Prime Minister in 1951 again and resigned in 1955. During this period Churchill managed to renew the special relationship between the UK and the United States. Prime Minister devoted his time to the formation of the post-war order. It was Churchill who popularized the term “iron curtain”. He tried to encourage trans-Atlantic and European unity.
As well as Churchill’s outstanding achievements in the field of politics, he left a legacy of many books and publications. Winston Churchill even got the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 (“Nobelprize’).
During the “Cold War”, Europe was divided into two warring camps. And Winston Churchill's speech, delivered on March 5, 1946 in Fulton (USA) was the symbolic beginning of this division. But Churchill's political legacy includes not only the image of a “divided Europe”, but also a new image of a united Europe.
During his last years, Churchill suffered from a severe cerebral thrombosis that made him seriously ill. He died on January 24, 1965 and was given a state funeral. Winston Churchill was buried in his family plot at Saint Martin's Churchyard, Bladon.
Winston Churchill considered himself responsible for the fate of people. He saw himself as a leader of a democratic society, who had to lead the struggle against the Nazis tyranny. Churchill was aware of the importance of his decisions and knew that the outcome of the War depended on his personal tenacity. His deep knowledge of the cause-effect relationships of historical processes allowed him to understand the situation and always be one step ahead.
Crespo-Fernández, E. (2013). Words as weapons for mass persuasion: dysphemism in Churchill's wartime speeches. Text & Talk, 33(3), 311-330. doi:10.1515/text-2013-0014
Churchill, W. Be Ye Men of Valour. (1940). Be Ye Men of Valour. Retrieved April 6, 2014, from http://www.winstonchurchill.org/component/content/article/3-speeches/91-be-ye-men-of-valour
Churchill, W. Their Finest Hour. (1940). Their Finest Hour. Retrieved April 6, 2014, from https://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/speeches/speeches-of-winston-churchill/122-their-finest-hour
Churchill, W. The Sinews of Peace. (1946). The Sinews of Peace. Retrieved April 6, 2014, from https://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/speeches/speeches-of-winston-churchill/120-the-sinews-of-peace
Winston's War: Churchill 1940-1945. (2010). Publishers Weekly, 257(6), 40-41.
Winston Churchill. (n.d.). BBC News. Retrieved April 6, 2014, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/people/winston_churchill
Winston Churchill - Biographical. (n.d.). Nobelprize.org. Retrieved April 6, 2014, from http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1953/churchill-bio.html