Monday, April 18, 2011
Born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, Churchill was a descendant of the duke of Marlborough. He enrolled in the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. After service in Cuba and India he participated in the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan and published an account of it. A journalist during the Boer war, he was captured by the Boers in 1899. His daring escape made him an instant celebrity. He entered Parliament in 1900 as a Conservative, changed to the Liberals in 1904, and defected again to the Conservatives in 1923.
As first Lord of the Admiralty Churchill organized British naval preparations for war in the Liberal cabinet of Herbert Asquith. When the First World War broke out he strongly argued for the launch of a naval and land attack on Turkey. The failed assault at Gallipolli (1915) led to his removal from the Admiralty. He also lost his seat in Parliament in 1922, but returned two years later and joined the Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin.
Between 1929 and 1939 Churchill did not hold office. He strongly disapproved of Baldwin's Indian policy, which moved towards eventual home rule for India. At the same time he warned against the emerging danger from Nazi Germany.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Churchill joined the cabinet of Neville Chamberlain, and he succeeded him as prime minister in May 10, 1940. As war leader Churchill made some of the most memorable speeches ever heard, and he rallied the British people in the face of looming disaster.
Early on he established close relations with President Roosevelt, who began to supply arms to Britain. Although a bitter enemy of the Sowjetunion, he decided to offer a war alliance and give help to the USSR when it was invaded by Germany in 1941. The entry of the United States into the war at the end of the same year gave the Allies the advantage in greater resources, but it also meant that Britain's influence diminished, and Churchill carried less weight at conferences and in the general formation of war strategy.
After the Allied victory in 1945, Churchill - in a surprise result - was voted out of office, however the subsequent election six years later re-installed him for a final term as prime minister.
A man of many talents he won the Nobel prize for literature in 1953. Churchill's witty style can be recognized from the following quote:
'History will be kind to me, because - I intend to write it !'