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Dalton Larson Western Civilization 2 March 22, 2013
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill grew up to become one of the most influential people of the twentieth century. As war raged all around the continent of Europe, he stayed relatively calm in the face of the great war machine that Hitler and the Nazi’s had put together. He heroically led Great Britain through one of the most trying times in the history of its existence. Churchill evolved from a small, premature baby born to a highly elite family in Great Britain in 1874, to become of the greatest and most prolific leaders of the twentieth century. He transformed himself from the worst student in his classes into a noted speaker, soldier, author, and war reporter. He stuttered as a boy, yet in 1953, he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Churchill became known for speaking as he wrote; vividly, majestically, and clearly. Winston Churchill was born on November 30, 1874 in a bleak-looking bedroom in Blenheim Palace to Lord Randolph Churchill, a politician, and Lady Jennie Jerome, an American socialite (Jenkins 2001, 5). Growing up, Winston did not have the greatest relationship with his father. He was a chunky young lad with an unruly mop of red hair. He talked with a pronounced stutter and lisp, and did poorly in his school work. Churchill stood in fear and wonder of his father, who was a leader in the Conservative party. Lord Randolph was a brilliant scholar and could not understand why his son had such trouble with his schoolwork. Due to his business and busy political career, and in his later years during his fall into depression as well as continuing bad health, his father did not have time for parenthood (Jenkins 2001, 10). In addition, Churchill had a “semi-relationship” with his mother. Lady Jennie charmed everyone with her beauty and wit. Winston was known to say “She shone for me like the Evening Star and I loved her dearly- but at a distance” (Jenkins 2001, 8).
Most of the parenting fell to Elizabeth Everest, a nanny who was put in charge of looking after him beginning a month after he was born. She continued to stay with him throughout his childhood. Later, starting approximately when he was sixteen, she sent him letters occasionally throughout his life. She was one of the only individuals from his lonely childhood that he had an ongoing emotional connection to. When Winston was twenty-six he had a memorable dinner with his father. He was quoted as saying, “We have, this evening, had a longer period of continuous conversation together than the total which I ever had with my father in the whole course of his life”. (Jenkins 2001, 10). At age eighteen, Churchill ached to become a soldier and wanted adventure. That meant fighting. He actually failed his entrance exams twice before passing and then went on to graduate eighth in a class of 150 students. In 1895, Churchill joined the British military and eventually became a Junior Calvary officer. Stationed in India at the high point of the empire, Churchill gained most of his military intelligence by vicariously reading about famous generals of the past. He had tremendous physical endurance and the vigor of his body matched that of his mind. Churchill had a known love of danger that made him a little reckless, but also gave him the ability and the confidence to command men, especially when he was under pressure. The British governor of India at the time was Bombay. He spent the any quiet time he had writing to his mother for advice, and he often wanted to leave the military and go to college to study history, philosophy, and economics. But his mother did not agree with that and gave him no encouragement (Jenkins 2001, 24). So he decided to take a course of study that let him learn on his own time, and his mother did help him with that course of study. She sent him any and all books he asked her for. The first books he read were the eight volumes of “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (Jenkins 2001, 24). He said that he often read seventy-five pages a day,
and he continued to educate himself by reading many other books, studying about economics and politics. While he was in India, Churchill accompanied the Malakand field force to shut down a rebellion lead by the Pathan tribesmen in the Swat Valley on the India border with Afghanistan (Jenkins 2001, 30). Many of his superiors named his leadership style as a combination of “reckless exposure with extreme longevity” (Jenkins 2001, 30). Most of the other officers in the conflict sat back and relaxed while Churchill, in a years’ time, had written a short novel about the campaign, and had mailed it to his mother to have it published. Another conflict Churchill participated in was the battle of Omdurman in Egypt, which was a semi-victorious battle. He wrote to his mother telling her that he was not impressed with the “21 Lancers”. In fact, he said he rather would have been with the Calvary of Egypt (Jenkins 2001, 40). Churchill went on to say that they lost one officer and twenty men, and one of the reasons he came out of the battle in perfect condition was because he had a pistol instead of a sword, due to a hurt shoulder (Jenkins 2001, 41). After the destruction of the Dervish army, Churchill went back to India for the final three months of his deployment, mainly to play polo. Later that year, back in England he started to pursue his political dealings and he contacted three conservative meetings; the Rotherhithe, Dover, and the Southsea. (Jenkins 2001, 42). At the age of twenty four and a half, Churchill’s political career started by being named one of the conservative candidates for the House of Commons (Jenkins 2001, 45). In that election Churchill lost. The voters he was trying to impress were mostly laborers and belonged to the Liberal party. However, this did not surprise the party leaders because he was new to the
political scene. He thought he did acceptable during the campaign. He stated that he thought his political speeches inspired people to follow his movement, and to vote for him. But he turned out to be wrong and the conservative party lost two seats in that mid-term by election (Jenkins 2001, 47). In October of 1899, Churchill was on his way to South Africa to fight in the conflict between the Boers and the British (Jenkins 2001, 50). This conflict arose because after gold was discovered in the area. It became a booming business and the native people wanted to take over the business for themselves and become wealthy. That created tension in area, and the conflict really started when the opposing forces started to cut British rail lines. When Churchill arrived, his duties included being an officer in the British military, and being a newspaper correspondent for “The Times” (Jenkins 2001, 52). Churchill’s first assignment in Africa was to go on a fortified train into enemy territory to probe the territory to scout out where the best British advance could take place. Unfortunately, a major mishap caused the train to derail and caused some of the cars to block the path home. Churchill worked to move some of the cars so that at least half of the train could head back. As the train left, Churchill stayed behind in the battle and consequently, was taken prisoner. About a month later he made a solitary escape, mailing note to a British encampment stating that he had escaped, and giving the commanding officer all his information. By July 1900, Churchill leaves South Africa for good. Just seventy days after returning to Europe, Winston is elected to the parliament of the town of Oldham “a proletarian cotton spinning town” (Jenkins 2001, 65). The parliament met for the first time in early December; for the Queen’s speech, eight days of business, and for
swearing in all of the new members. Being the newest member Churchill, should have been there with bells on, but no “he had sailed to New York on the first of December” (Jenkins 2001, 67). Churchill went on a lecture-giving tour throughout The United States and Canada, and did not return to Britain until February 1901. By that time, Queen Victoria had died. In early February, King Edward had taken over the throne. This was beneficial for Winston because Edward was a longtime friend of his father, Lord Randolph. That friendship as well as having a famous name would pay-off handsomely in the long run for Churchill. At this time, Churchill had started authoring a two volume book about his father. These books took him three years to write, including the manuscripts, and doing all of the research alone. He did extensive research by interviewing family members and from his own experiences with his father. In the book, Churchill outlines his father’s relationship with his mother, and additionally, he talks about his relationship with his father. In the book Winston gives his father icon status instead showing him as a human being. The book did not show much of Lord Randolph’s real personality at all. One of the final things he talks about in the book is that his father always had some sort of illness. Churchill wrote several books, but three really stand out: My Early Life, and Great Contemporaries are the top two, followed closely by Lord Randolph Churchill. Those are his greatest works (Jenkins 2001, 102). The book about his father came out at the perfect time, giving him the limelight right during the election season. Winston Churchill was elected to the House of Commons by a huge margin of almost two thousand votes. In this term, Churchill had some serious issues he wanted to clear up with South Africa. The first was that he wanted a settlement to be drawn up to create peace with the two main Boer groups that he fought against just a few years in the past. The second was to deal with the treatment of Chinese slaves working in the mines of South Africa. He wanted to get
these workers and slaves better pay and fair treatment. During this term, Winston was at a dinner party in London in 1908 where he met and became obsessed with his future wife, Clementine Hozier. They were married later, in September, that very year. He often stated that his most brilliant achievement was his ability to persuade his wife to marry him. Winston and Clementine’s first child was born in 1909, and they named her Diana. The next child was born in 1911, and they named him Randolph. Next was born a daughter, whom they named Sarah, in 1914. Their final child was born in 1922, and they named her Mary. Another daughter, Marigold, was born to Churchill and Clementine in 1918. However, she passed away in 1921 at the age of 3. The author states that Churchill tried extremely hard to be a good father to all of his children, especially Randolph, as well as deal with his political career. He did not want to follow the same parenting path as his father and fail to be a good family man and example for his children. During the years leading up to World War I, Churchill, as secretary wanted the Prime Minister at that time (Lloyd George, in 1916) to implement the “big navy policy” which is essentially whatever Germany builds, we will build something bigger and better (Jenkins 2001, 222). During the war, Churchill’s main concern was the royal navy. He commandeered them from this top spot, as First Lord of the Admiralty. He helped reorganization of the navy, as well as modernize and help develop anti-submarine tactics and he assisted in creation of the navy’s first air service. When World War I started in August of 1914, the British fleet was ready. After his resignation from the First Lord of the Admiralty, he joined the British Army for a span of six months and served as an officer. During this time, he lived a working class officer’s lifestyle. He worked hard and tried hard to get the promotions he so desired. Within the first
week of being in France, he was detached to the Grenadier’s second battalion. In December of that year, 1916, he was given command of the “56th Brigade (Jenkins 2001, 292). In the spring of 1917 he returned to London and was back to work in the cabinet as the war secretary. In 1921 he took the job of being Secretary of State, and during this time he lived a very social lifestyle. He went out to dinner parties and clubs almost nightly. Due to an emergency appendectomy three days before the 1922 election, he had lost his bid for the election, but by in November of 1924 he regained his seat in the House of Commons. His father had held this same seat 40years prior. During the peaceful years before World War II, Britain was trying to act as referee between France and Germany. France wanted to have security and did not want another invasion, while Germany wanted to rebuild their army and gain all of the strength lost after World War I. Across the pond, Great Britain supported the control of Germany’s strength. After Germany started to gain strength again, Great Britain determined that they should try to make allies of them and within twenty four months, this happened. During the final year of peace Churchill had no clue that in just a few short months, he would be the leader of the conservative party too. During this time in Poland, the Nazis were rounding up the Jews and some were being shot in cold blood in the streets execution style. When Churchill took over the top spot he had to deal with some very serious issues. In 1939 the Prime Minister called Churchill into his office and wanted him on the war cabinet again. Churchill accepted the broad offer, not knowing how much he would really have to do (Jenkins 2001, 600). In May of 1940, Hitler launched his full offensive against their mainland targets. However, the attack on Great Britain didn’t start until in July when the Germans started bombing London. But in the fall of 1940 the Germans changed plans and started bombing cities and town instead of bases and factories. Churchill took over as Prime
Minister when there was little good news, so he had his job cut out for him. In the fall, the British started to fight back against the Luftwaffe (the German air force) when they had acquired enough fighter jets to start on the offensive. When the bombing started to pinpoint the government, these offices were moved to the underground bunkers constructed earlier, expressly for this purpose. When Churchill took over he was waging a war against the huge war machine that was known as the axis, and he had no allies as of yet. In early 1941, it turned into World War II, when Russia joined in the fray because of the German’s attack on them. America joined because of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. During this time (right after the allies joined “the big three” of Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Stalin) they started planning how they could get back into Europe. As history tells us, the plan was to squeeze Germany and its allies into submission by: a) taking back France through the beaches at Normandy; b) taking Italy back from the south and; c) Russia would come from the east to squeeze the life out of them. During this time of war, Churchill often traveled to the United States for conferences with his good friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The way things looked, Churchill liked and trusted Roosevelt a lot more than he trusted Stalin, because Stalin supported communism. Churchill was one of communism’s biggest opponents. In 1945, the allied troops met in Berlin and Germany surrendered in a few short days. May 8th was declared Victory in Europe Day. Churchill was relieved that the war was over, but soon after, he is defeated in the election for the position of Prime Minister in 1945. However, he was still the leader of the Conservative Party. Winston Churchill was still in the Parliament during this time, and he was re-elected as Prime Minister to serve from 1951 to 1955. Then, from 1955 to 1964 he returned to Parliament, later retiring from politics at the age of a ninety. Sir Winston Churchill passed away on January 24, 1965.
Churchill was a significant part of history in many ways. One way is that there are very few leaders who have had as much experience in combat as Churchill had. He fought in a conflict in India against the horsemen of Afghanistan. He fought in the war with the Boer in South Africa where he was taken prisoner and then escaped. The final war experience Churchill had was in World War I when he led a battalion of grenadiers. Having all of these skills and extensive experiences gave him the necessary mind set to lead a country through the Second World War. Churchill was a great speaker. The author said that he was a better speaker than Roosevelt, because Churchill could talk to anyone anytime. He was able to create excitement for his causes when he gave speeches, exciting people and spurring them to action. With this great skill he could gain votes almost anywhere, as well as gain support for issues such the humane treatment of indentured servants in South Africa. With his persuasive skills, he could raise the morale of troops he talked to and he elevated the pride of the nation to support the war effort. His famous “V” victory salute was a very inspiring symbol of faith and eventual victory during WWII. It is still, to this day, used to indicate victory; two fingers raised high in a “V”. The final significant item Churchill contributed was as one of “the big three”, he was the glue that brought together the three most powerful countries during that time to fight for a single goal: the defeat of the axis countries. Although the German and Japanese attacks on Russia and the United States is really what got these countries involved in the war, Churchill had a part in it. Probably the most difficult thing he accomplished was to keep three different government styles from fighting constantly and continuously with each other.
In conclusion, Churchill was one of the greatest leaders and politicians of all time. He was involved in politics for nearly sixty five years and led Great Britain for ten of those years. He played a crucial role in the World War II, and additionally he played a very influential role in the United States’ part in the war by becoming a very good friend of Franklin .D Roosevelt’s. In the Twentieth century, there have been few men that were as powerful, as well known, and as influential as Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.