Sir Winston Churchill
(1874 - 1965)
Sir Winston Churchill - author, orator, and statesman--led Great Britain
from the brink of defeat to victory as wartime prime minister from 1940
to 1945. After a sensational rise to prominence in national politics
before World War I, he acquired a reputation for erratic judgment in
the war itself and in the decade that followed. Politically suspect
in consequence, he was a lonely figure until his response to Adolf Hitler's
challenge brought him to leadership of a national coalition in 1940.
With Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin he shaped Allied strategy
in World War II, and after the breakdown of the alliance he alerted
the West to the expansionist threat of the Soviet Union. He led the
Conservative Party back to office in 1951 and remained prime minister
until 1955, when ill health forced his resignation.
Churchill was born on Nov. 30, 1874, prematurely, at Blenheim Palace,
Oxfordshire, and was christened Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. In
his veins ran the blood of both of the English-speaking peoples whose
unity, in peace and war, it was to be a constant purpose of his to promote.
Through his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, the meteoric Tory politician,
he was directly descended from John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough,
the hero of the wars against Louis XIV of France in the early 18th century.
His mother, Jennie Jerome, a noted beauty, was the daughter of a New
York financier and horse racing enthusiast, Leonard W. Jerome.
The young Churchill passed an unhappy and sadly neglected childhood,
redeemed only by the affection of Mrs. Everest, his devoted nurse. At
Harrow his conspicuously poor academic record seemingly justified his
father's decision to enter him into an army career. It was only at the
third attempt that he managed to pass the entrance examination to the
Royal Military College, now Academy, Sandhurst, but, once there, he
applied himself seriously and passed out (graduated) 20th in a class
of 130. In 1895, the year of his father's tragic death, he entered the
4th Hussars. Initially the only prospect of action was in Cuba, where
he spent a couple of months of leave reporting the Cuban war of independence
from Spain for the Daily Graphic (London). In 1896 his regiment went
to India, where he saw service as both soldier and journalist on the
North-West Frontier (1897). Expanded as The Story of the Malakand Field
Force (1898), his dispatches attracted such wide attention as to launch
him on the career of authorship that he intermittently pursued throughout
his life. In 1897-98 he wrote Savrola (1900), a Ruritanian romance,
and got himself attached to Lord Kitchener's Nile expeditionary force
in the same dual role of soldier and correspondent. The River War (1899)
brilliantly describes the campaign.
POLITICAL CAREER BEFORE 1939
The five years after Sandhurst saw Churchill's interests expand and
mature. He relieved the tedium of army life in India by a program of
reading designed to repair the deficiencies of Harrow and Sandhurst,
and in 1899 he resigned his commission to enter politics and make a
living by his pen. He first stood as a Conservative at Oldham, where
he lost a by-election by a narrow margin, but found quick solace in
reporting the South African War for The Morning Post (London). Within
a month after his arrival in South Africa he had won fame for his part
in rescuing an armoured train ambushed by Boers, though at the price
of himself being taken prisoner. But this fame was redoubled when less
than a month later he escaped from military prison. Returning to Britain
a military hero, he laid siege again to Oldham in the election of 1900.
Churchill succeeded in winning by a margin as narrow as that of his
previous failure. But he was now in Parliament and, fortified by the
10,000 his writings and lecture tours had earned for him, was in a position
to make his own way in politics.
A self-assurance redeemed from arrogance only by a kind of boyish charm
made Churchill from the first a notable House of Commons figure, but
a speech defect, which he never wholly lost, combined with a certain
psychological inhibition to prevent him from immediately becoming a
master of debate. He excelled in the set speech, on which he always
spent enormous pains, rather than in the impromptu; Lord Balfour, the
Conservative leader, said of him that he carried "heavy but not
very mobile guns." In matter as in style he modeled himself on
his father, as his admirable biography, Lord Randolph Churchill (1906;
revised edition 1952), makes evident, and from the first he wore his
Toryism with a difference, advocating a fair, negotiated peace for the
Boers and deploring military mismanagement and extravagance.
As Liberal minister.
In 1904 the Conservative government found itself impaled on a dilemma
by Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain's open advocacy of a tariff.
Churchill, a convinced free trader, helped to found the Free Food League.
He was disavowed by his constituents and became increasingly alienated
from his party. In 1904 he joined the Liberals and won renown for the
audacity of his attacks on Chamberlain and Balfour. The radical elements
in his political makeup came to the surface under the influence of two
colleagues in particular, John Morley, a political legatee of W.E. Gladstone,
and David Lloyd George, the rising Welsh orator and firebrand. In the
ensuing general election in 1906 he secured a notable victory in Manchester
and began his ministerial career in the new Liberal government as undersecretary
of state for the colonies. He soon gained credit for his able defense
of the policy of conciliation and self-government in South Africa. When
the ministry was reconstructed under Prime Minister Herbert H. Asquith
in 1908, Churchill was promoted to president of the Board of Trade,
with a seat in the Cabinet. Defeated at the ensuing by-election in Manchester,
he won an election at Dundee. In the same year he married the beautiful
Clementine Hozier; it was a marriage of unbroken affection that provided
a secure and happy background for his turbulent career.
At the Board of Trade, Churchill emerged as a leader in the movement
of Liberalism away from laissez-faire toward social reform. He completed
the work begun by his predecessor, Lloyd George, on the bill imposing
an eight-hour maximum day for miners. He himself was responsible for
attacking the evils of "sweated" labour by setting up trade
boards with power to fix minimum wages and for combating unemployment
by instituting state-run labour exchanges.
When this Liberal program necessitated high taxation, which in turn
provoked the House of Lords to the revolutionary step of rejecting the
budget of 1909, Churchill was Lloyd George's closest ally in developing
the provocative strategy designed to clip the wings of the upper chamber.
Churchill became president of the Budget League, and his oratorical
broadsides at the House of Lords were as lively and devastating as Lloyd
George's own. Indeed Churchill, as an alleged traitor to his class,
earned the lion's share of Tory animosity. His campaigning in the two
general elections of 1910 and in the House of Commons during the passage
of the Parliament Act of 1911, which curbed the House of Lords' powers,
won him wide popular acclaim. In the Cabinet his reward was promotion
to the office of home secretary. Here, despite substantial achievements
in prison reform, he had to devote himself principally to coping with
a sweeping wave of industrial unrest and violent strikes. Upon occasion
his relish for dramatic action led him beyond the limits of his proper
role as the guarantor of public order. For this he paid a heavy price
in incurring the long-standing suspicion of organized labour.
In 1911 the provocative German action in sending a gunboat to Agadir,
the Moroccan port to which France had claims, convinced Churchill that
in any major Franco-German conflict Britain would have to be at France's
side. When transferred to the Admiralty in October 1911, he went to
work with a conviction of the need to bring the navy to a pitch of instant
readiness. His first task was the creation of a naval war staff. To
help Britain's lead over steadily mounting German naval power, Churchill
successfully campaigned in the Cabinet for the largest naval expenditure
in British history. Despite his inherited Tory views on Ireland, he
wholeheartedly embraced the Liberal policy of Home Rule, moving the
second reading of the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1912 and campaigning for
it in the teeth of Unionist opposition. Although, through his friendship
with F.E. Smith (later 1st earl of Birkenhead) and Austen Chamberlain,
he did much to arrange the compromise by which Ulster was to be excluded
from the immediate effect of the bill, no member of the government was
more bitterly abused--by Tories as a renegade and by extreme Home Rulers
as a defector.
During World War I.
War came as no surprise to Churchill. He had already held a test naval
mobilization. Of all the Cabinet ministers he was the most insistent
on the need to resist Germany. On Aug. 2, 1914, on his own responsibility,
he ordered the naval mobilization that guaranteed complete readiness
when war was declared. The war called out all of Churchill's energies.
In October 1914, when Antwerp was falling, he characteristically rushed
in person to organize its defense. When it fell the public saw only
a disillusioning defeat, but in fact the prolongation of its resistance
for almost a week enabled the Belgian Army to escape and the crucial
Channel ports to be saved. At the Admiralty, Churchill's partnership
with Adm. Sir John Fisher, the first sea lord, was productive both of
dynamism and of dissension. In 1915, when Churchill became an enthusiast
for the Dardanelles expedition as a way out of the costly stalemate
on the Western Front, he had to proceed against Fisher's disapproval.
The campaign aimed at forcing the straits and opening up direct communications
with Russia. When the naval attack failed and was called off on the
spot by Adm. J.M. de Robeck, the Admiralty war group and Asquith both
supported de Robeck rather than Churchill. Churchill came under heavy
political attack, which intensified when Fisher resigned. Preoccupied
with departmental affairs, Churchill was quite unprepared for the storm
that broke about his ears. He had no part at all in the maneuvers that
produced the first coalition government and was powerless when the Conservatives,
with the sole exception of Sir William Maxwell Aitken (soon Lord Beaverbrook),
insisted on his being demoted from the Admiralty to the duchy of Lancaster.
There he was given special responsibility for the Gallipoli Campaign
(a land assault at the straits) without, however, any powers of direction.
Reinforcements were too few and too late; the campaign failed and casualties
were heavy; evacuation was ordered in the autumn.
In November 1915 Churchill resigned from the government and returned
to soldiering, seeing active service in France as lieutenant colonel
of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers. Although he entered the service with
zest, army life did not give full scope for his talents. In June 1916,
when his battalion was merged, he did not seek another command but instead
returned to Parliament as a private member. He was not involved in the
intrigues that led to the formation of a coalition government under
Lloyd George, and it was not until 1917 that the Conservatives would
consider his inclusion in the government. In March 1917 the publication
of the Dardanelles commission report demonstrated that he was at least
no more to blame for the fiasco than his colleagues.
Even so, Churchill's appointment as minister of munitions in July 1917
was made in the face of a storm of Tory protest. Excluded from the Cabinet,
Churchill's role was almost entirely administrative, but his dynamic
energies thrown behind the development and production of the tank (which
he had initiated at the Admiralty) greatly speeded up the use of the
weapon that broke through the deadlock on the Western Front. Paradoxically,
it was not until the war was over that Churchill returned to a service
department. In January 1919 he became secretary of war. As such he presided
with surprising zeal over the cutting of military expenditure. The major
preoccupation of his tenure in the War Office was, however, the Allied
intervention in Russia. Churchill, passionately anti-Bolshevik, secured
from a divided and loosely organized Cabinet an intensification and
prolongation of the British involvement beyond the wishes of any major
group in Parliament or the nation--and in the face of the bitter hostility
of labour. And in 1920, after the last British forces had been withdrawn,
Churchill was instrumental in having arms sent to the Poles when they
invaded the Ukraine.
In 1921 Churchill moved to the Colonial Office, where his principal
concern was with the mandated territories in the Middle East. For the
costly British forces in the area he substituted a reliance on the air
force and the establishment of rulers congenial to British interests;
for this settlement of Arab affairs he relied heavily on the advice
of T.E. Lawrence. For Palestine, where he inherited conflicting pledges
to Jews and Arabs, he produced in 1922 the White Paper that confirmed
Palestine as a Jewish national home while recognizing continuing Arab
rights. Churchill never had departmental responsibility for Ireland,
but he progressed from an initial belief in firm, even ruthless, maintenance
of British rule to an active role in the negotiations that led to the
Irish treaty of 1921. Subsequently, he gave full support to the new
In the autumn of 1922 the insurgent Turks appeared to be moving toward
a forcible reoccupation of the Dardanelles neutral zone, which was protected
by a small British force at Chanak (now Canakkale). Churchill was foremost
in urging a firm stand against them, but the handling of the issue by
the Cabinet gave the public impression that a major war was being risked
for an inadequate cause and on insufficient consideration. A political
debacle ensued that brought the shaky coalition government down in ruins,
with Churchill as one of the worst casualties. Gripped by a sudden attack
of appendicitis, he was not able to appear in public until two days
before the election, and then only in a wheelchair. He was defeated
humiliatingly by more than 10,000 votes. He thus found himself, as he
said, all at once "without an office, without a seat, without a
party, and even without an appendix."
In and out of office, 1922-29.
In convalescence and political impotence Churchill turned to his brush
and his pen. His painting never rose above the level of a gifted amateur's,
but his writing once again provided him with the financial base his
independent brand of politics required. His autobiographical history
of the war, The World Crisis, netted him the 20,000 with which he purchased
Chartwell, henceforth his country home in Kent. When he returned to
politics it was as a crusading anti-Socialist, but in 1923, when Stanley
Baldwin was leading the Conservatives on a protectionist program, Churchill
stood, at Leicester, as a Liberal free trader. He lost by approximately
4,000 votes. Asquith's decision in 1924 to support a minority Labour
government moved Churchill farther to the right. He stood as an "Independent
Anti-Socialist" in a by-election in the Abbey division of Westminster.
Although opposed by an official Conservative candidate--who defeated
him by a hairbreadth of 43 votes--Churchill managed to avoid alienating
the Conservative leadership and indeed won conspicuous support from
many prominent figures in the party. In the general election in November
1924 he won an easy victory at Epping under the thinly disguised Conservative
label of "Constitutionalist." Baldwin, free of his flirtation
with protectionism, offered Churchill, the "constitutionalist free
trader," the post of chancellor of the Exchequer. Surprised, Churchill
accepted; dumbfounded, the country interpreted it as a move to absorb
into the party all the right-of-centre elements of the former coalition.
In the five years that followed, Churchill's early liberalism survived
only in the form of advocacy of rigid laissez-faire economics; for the
rest he appeared, repeatedly, as the leader of the diehards. He had
no natural gift for financial administration, and though the noted economist
John Maynard Keynes criticized him unsparingly, most of the advice he
received was orthodox and harmful. His first move was to restore the
gold standard, a disastrous measure, from which flowed deflation, unemployment,
and the miners' strike that led to the general strike of 1926. Churchill
offered no remedy except the cultivation of strict economy, extending
even to the armed services. Churchill viewed the general strike as a
quasi-revolutionary measure and was foremost in resisting a negotiated
settlement. He leaped at the opportunity of editing the British Gazette,
an emergency official newspaper, which he filled with bombastic and
frequently inflammatory propaganda. The one relic of his earlier radicalism
was his partnership with Neville Chamberlain as minister of health in
the cautious expansion of social services, mainly in the provision of
In 1929, when the government fell, Churchill, who would have liked
a Tory-Liberal reunion, deplored Baldwin's decision to accept a minority
Labour government. The next year an open rift developed between the
two men. On Baldwin's endorsement of a Round Table Conference with Indian
leaders, Churchill resigned from the shadow cabinet and threw himself
into a passionate, at times almost hysterical, campaign against the
Government of India bill (1935) designed to give India dominion status.
Exclusion from office, 1929-39.
Thus, when in 1931 the National Government was formed, Churchill, though
a supporter, had no hand in its establishment or place in its councils.
He had arrived at a point where, for all his abilities, he was distrusted
by every party. He was thought to lack judgment and stability and was
regarded as a guerrilla fighter impatient of discipline. He was considered
a clever man who associated too much with clever men--Birkenhead, Beaverbrook,
Lloyd George--and who despised the necessary humdrum associations and
compromises of practical politics.
In this situation he found relief, as well as profit, in his pen, writing,
in Marlborough: His Life and Times, a massive rehabilitation of his
ancestor against the criticisms of the 19th-century historian Thomas
Babington Macaulay. But overriding the past and transcending his worries
about India was a mounting anxiety about the growing menace of Hitler's
Germany. Before a supine government and a doubting opposition, Churchill
persistently argued the case for taking the German threat seriously
and for the need to prevent the Luftwaffe from securing parity with
the Royal Air Force. In this he was supported by a small but devoted
personal following, in particular the gifted, curmudgeonly Oxford physics
professor Frederick A. Lindemann (later Lord Cherwell), who enabled
him to build up at Chartwell a private intelligence centre, the information
of which was often superior to that of the government. When Baldwin
became prime minister in 1935, he persisted in excluding Churchill from
office but gave him the exceptional privilege of membership in the secret
committee on air-defense research, thus enabling him to work on some
vital national problems. But Churchill had little success in his efforts
to impart urgency to Baldwin's administration. The crisis that developed
when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935 found Churchill ill prepared, divided
between a desire to build up the League of Nations around the concept
of collective security and the fear that collective action would drive
Benito Mussolini into the arms of Hitler. The Spanish Civil War (1936-39)
found him convinced of the virtues of nonintervention, first as a supporter
and later as a critic of Francisco Franco. Such vagaries of judgment
in fact reflected the overwhelming priority he accorded to one issue--the
containment of German aggressiveness. At home there was one grievous,
characteristic, romantic misreading of the political and public mood,
when, in Edward VIII's abdication crisis of 1936, he vainly opposed
Baldwin by a public championing of the King's cause.
When Neville Chamberlain succeeded Baldwin, the gulf between the Cassandra-like
Churchill and the Conservative leaders widened. Repeatedly the accuracy
of Churchill's information on Germany's aggressive plans and progress
was confirmed by events; repeatedly his warnings were ignored. Yet his
handful of followers remained small; politically, Chamberlain felt secure
in ignoring them. As German pressure mounted on Czechoslovakia, Churchill
without success urged the government to effect a joint declaration of
purpose by Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. When the Munich
Agreement with Hitler was made in September 1938, sacrificing Czechoslovakia
to the Nazis, Churchill laid bare its implications, insisting that it
represented "a total and unmitigated defeat." In March 1939
Churchill and his group pressed for a truly national coalition, and,
at last, sentiment in the country, recognizing him as the nation's spokesman,
began to agitate for his return to office. As long as peace lasted,
Chamberlain ignored all such persuasions.
LEADERSHIP DURING WORLD WAR II
In a sense, the whole of Churchill's previous career had been a preparation
for wartime leadership. An intense patriot; a romantic believer in his
country's greatness and its historic role in Europe, the empire, and
the world; a devotee of action who thrived on challenge and crisis;
a student, historian, and veteran of war; a statesman who was master
of the arts of politics, despite or because of long political exile;
a man of iron constitution, inexhaustible energy, and total concentration,
he seemed to have been nursing all his faculties so that when the moment
came he could lavish them on the salvation of Britain and the values
he believed Britain stood for in the world.
On Sept. 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, Chamberlain
appointed Churchill to his old post in charge of the Admiralty. The
signal went out to the fleet: "Winston is back." On September
11 Churchill received a congratulatory note from Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt
and replied over the signature "Naval Person"; a memorable
correspondence had begun. At once Churchill's restless energy began
to be felt throughout the administration, as his ministerial colleagues
as well as his own department received the first of those pungent minutes
that kept the remotest corners of British wartime government aware that
their shortcomings were liable to detection and penalty. All his efforts,
however, failed to energize the torpid Anglo-French entente during the
so-called "phony war," the period of stagnation in the European
war before the German seizure of Norway in April 1940. The failure of
the Narvik and Trondheim expeditions, dependent as they were on naval
support, could not but evoke some memories of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli,
so fateful for Churchill's reputation in World War I. This time, however,
it was Chamberlain who was blamed, and it was Churchill who endeavoured
to defend him.
As prime minister.
The German invasion of the Low Countries, on May 10, 1940, came like
a hammer blow on top of the Norwegian fiasco. Chamberlain resigned.
He wanted Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary, to succeed him, but Halifax
wisely declined. It was obvious that Churchill alone could unite and
lead the nation, since the Labour Party, for all its old distrust of
Churchill's anti-Socialism, recognized the depth of his commitment to
the defeat of Hitler. A coalition government was formed that included
all elements save the far left and right. It was headed by a war Cabinet
of five, which included at first both Chamberlain and Halifax--a wise
but also magnanimous recognition of the numerical strength of Chamberlainite
conservatism--and two Labour leaders, Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood.
The appointment of Ernest Bevin, a tough trade-union leader, as minister
of labour guaranteed cooperation on this vital front. Offers were made
to Lloyd George, but he declined them. Churchill himself took, in addition
to the leadership of the House of Commons, the Ministry of Defence.
The pattern thus set was maintained throughout the war despite many
changes of personnel. The Cabinet became an agency of swift decision,
and the government that it controlled remained representative of all
groups and parties. The Prime Minister concentrated on the actual conduct
of the war. He delegated freely but also probed and interfered continuously,
regarding nothing as too large or too small for his attention. The main
function of the chiefs of the armed services became that of containing
his great dynamism, as a governor regulates a powerful machine; but,
though he prodded and pressed them continuously, he never went against
their collective judgment. In all this, Parliament played a vital part.
If World War II was strikingly free from the domestic political intrigues
of World War I, it was in part because Churchill, while he always dominated
Parliament, never neglected it or took it for granted. For him, Parliament
was an instrument of public persuasion on which he played like a master
and from which he drew strength and comfort.
On May 13 Churchill faced the House of Commons for the first time as
prime minister. He warned members of the hard road ahead--"I have
nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat"--and committed
himself and the nation to all-out war until victory was achieved. Behind
this simplicity of aim lay an elaborate strategy to which he adhered
with remarkable consistency throughout the war. Hitler's Germany was
the enemy; nothing should distract the entire British people from the
task of effecting its defeat. Anyone who shared this goal, even a communist,
was an acceptable ally. The indispensable ally in this endeavour, whether
formally at war or not, was the United States. The cultivation and maintenance
of its support was a central principle of Churchill's thought. Yet whether
the United States became a belligerent partner or not, the war must
be won without a repetition for Britain of the catastrophic bloodlettings
of World War I; and Europe at the conflict's end must be reestablished
as a viable, self-determining entity, while the Commonwealth should
remain as a continuing, if changing, expression of Britain's world role.
Provided these essentials were preserved, Churchill, for all his sense
of history, was surprisingly willing to sacrifice any national shibboleths--of
orthodox economics, of social convention, of military etiquette or tradition--on
the altar of victory. Thus, within a couple of weeks of this crusading
anti-Socialist's assuming power, Parliament passed legislation placing
all "persons, their services and their property at the disposal
of the Crown"--granting the government in effect the most sweeping
emergency powers in modern British history.
The effort was designed to match the gravity of the hour. After the
Allied defeat and the evacuation of the battered British forces from
Dunkirk, Churchill warned Parliament that invasion was a real risk to
be met with total and confident defiance. Faced with the swift collapse
of France, Churchill made repeated personal visits to the French government
in an attempt to keep France in the war, culminating in the celebrated
offer of Anglo-French union on June 16, 1940. When all this failed,
the Battle of Britain began. Here Churchill was in his element, in the
firing line--at fighter headquarters, inspecting coast defenses or antiaircraft
batteries, visiting scenes of bomb damage or victims of the "blitz,"
smoking his cigar, giving his V sign, or broadcasting frank reports
to the nation, laced with touches of grim Churchillian humour and splashed
with Churchillian rhetoric. The nation took him to its heart; he and
they were one in "their finest hour."
Other painful and more debatable decisions fell to Churchill. The French
fleet was attacked to prevent its surrender intact to Hitler. A heavy
commitment was made to the concentrated bombing of Germany. At the height
of the invasion threat, a decision was made to reinforce British strength
in the eastern Mediterranean. Forces were also sent to Greece, a costly
sacrifice; the evacuation of Crete looked like another Gallipoli, and
Churchill came under heavy fire in Parliament.
In these hard days the exchange of U.S. overage destroyers for British
Caribbean bases and the response, by way of lend-lease, to Churchill's
boast "Give us the tools and we'll finish the job" were especially
heartening to one who believed in a "mixing-up" of the English-speaking
democracies. The unspoken alliance was further cemented in August 1941
by the dramatic meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt in Placentia
Bay, Nfd., Canada, which produced the Atlantic Charter, a statement
of common principles between the United States and Britain.
Formation of the "grand alliance."
When Hitler launched his sudden attack on the Soviet Union, Churchill's
response was swift and unequivocal. In a broadcast on June 22, 1941,
while refusing to "unsay" any of his earlier criticisms of
communism, he insisted that "the Russian danger . . . is our danger"
and pledged aid to the Russian people. Henceforth, it was his policy
to construct a "grand alliance" incorporating the Soviet Union
and the United States. But it took until May 1942 to negotiate a 20-year
Anglo-Soviet pact of mutual assistance.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) altered, in Churchill's
eyes, the whole prospect of the war. He went at once to Washington,
D.C., and, with Roosevelt, hammered out a set of Anglo-American accords:
the pooling of both countries' military and economic resources under
combined boards and a combined chiefs of staff; the establishment of
unity of command in all theatres of war; and agreement on the basic
strategy that the defeat of Germany should have priority over the defeat
of Japan. The grand alliance had now come into being. Churchill could
claim to be its principal architect. Safeguarding it was the primary
concern of his next three and a half years.
In protecting the alliance, the respect and affection between him and
Roosevelt were of crucial importance. They alone enabled Churchill,
in the face of relentless pressure from Stalin and ardent advocacy by
the U.S. chiefs of staff, to secure the rejection of the "second
front" in 1942, a project he regarded as premature and costly.
In August 1942 Churchill himself flew to Moscow to advise Stalin of
the decision and to bear the brunt of his displeasure. At home, too,
he came under fire in 1942: first in January after the reverses in Malaya
and the Far East and later in June when Tobruk in North Africa fell
to the Germans, but on neither occasion did his critics muster serious
support in Parliament. The year 1942 saw some reconstruction of the
Cabinet in a "leftward" direction, which was reflected in
the adoption in 1943 of Lord Beveridge's plan for comprehensive social
insurance, endorsed by Churchill as a logical extension of the Liberal
reforms of 1911.
Military successes and political problems.
The Allied landings in North Africa necessitated a fresh meeting between
Churchill and Roosevelt, this time in Casablanca in January 1943. There
Churchill argued for an early, full-scale attack on "the under-belly
of the Axis" but won only a grudging acquiescence from the Americans.
There too was evolved the "unconditional surrender" formula
of debatable wisdom. Churchill paid the price for his intensive travel
(including Tripoli, Turkey, and Algeria) by an attack of pneumonia,
for which, however, he allowed only the briefest of respites. In May
he was in Washington, D.C., again, arguing against persistent American
aversion to his "under-belly" strategy; in August he was at
Quebec, working out the plans for Operation Overlord, the cross-Channel
assault. When he learned that the Americans were planning a large-scale
invasion of Burma in 1944, his fears that their joint resources would
not be adequate for a successful invasion of Normandy were revived.
In November 1943 at Cairo he urged on Roosevelt priority for further
Mediterranean offensives, but at Tehran in the first "Big Three"
meeting, he failed to retain Roosevelt's adherence to a completely united
Anglo-American front. Roosevelt, though he consulted in private with
Stalin, refused to see Churchill alone; for all their friendship there
was also an element of rivalry between the two Western leaders that
Stalin skillfully exploited. On the issue of Allied offensive drives
into southern Europe, Churchill was outvoted. Throughout the meetings
Churchill had been unwell, and on his way home he came down again with
pneumonia. Though recovery was rapid, it was mid-January 1944 before
convalescence was complete. By May he was proposing to watch the D-Day
assaults from a battle cruiser; only the King's personal plea dissuaded
Insistence on military success did not, for Churchill, mean indifference
to its political implications. After the Quebec conference in September
1944, he flew to Moscow to try to conciliate the Russians and the Poles
and to get an agreed division of spheres of influence in the Balkans
that would protect as much of them as possible from communism. In Greece
he used British forces to thwart a communist takeover and at Christmas
flew to Athens to effect a settlement. Much of what passed at the Yalta
Conference in February 1945, including the Far East settlement, concerned
only Roosevelt and Stalin, and Churchill did not interfere. He fought
to save the Poles but saw clearly enough that there was no way to force
the Soviets to keep their promises. Realizing this, he urged the United
States to allow the Allied forces to thrust as far into eastern Europe
as possible before the Russian armies should fill the vacuum left by
German power, but he could not win over Roosevelt, Vice Pres. Harry
S. Truman, or their generals to his views. He went to Potsdam in July
in a worried mood. But in the final decisions of the conference he had
no part; halfway through, when news came of his government's defeat
in parliamentary elections, he had to return to England and tender his
Already in 1944, with victory in prospect, party politics had revived,
and by May 1945 all parties in the wartime coalition wanted an early
election. But whereas Churchill wanted the coalition to continue at
least until Japan was defeated, Labour wished to resume its independence.
Churchill as the popular architect of victory seemed unbeatable, but
as an election campaigner he proved to be his own worst enemy, indulging,
seemingly at Beaverbrook's urging, in extravagant prophecies of the
appalling consequences of a Labour victory and identifying himself wholly
with the Conservative cause. His campaign tours were a triumphal progress,
but it was the war leader, not the party leader, whom the crowds cheered.
Labour's careful but sweeping program of economic and social reform
was a better match for the nation's mood than Churchill's flamboyance.
Though personally victorious at his Essex constituency of Woodford,
Churchill saw his party reduced to 213 seats in a Parliament of 640.
POSTWAR POLITICAL CAREER
As opposition leader and world statesman.
The shock of rejection by the nation fell heavily on Churchill. Indeed,
though he accepted the role of leader of the parliamentary opposition,
he was never wholly at home in it. The economic and social questions
that dominated domestic politics were not at the centre of his interests.
Nor, with his imperial vision, could he approve of what he called Labour's
policy of "scuttle," as evidenced in the granting of independence
to India and Burma (though he did not vote against the necessary legislation).
But in foreign policy a broad identity of view persisted between the
front benches, and this was the area to which Churchill primarily devoted
himself. On March 5, 1946, at Fulton, Mo., U.S., he enunciated, in the
presence of President Truman, the two central themes of his postwar
view of the world: the need for Britain and the United States to unite
as guardians of the peace against the menace of Soviet communism, which
had brought down an "iron curtain" across the face of Europe;
and with equal fervour he emerged as an advocate of European union.
At Zurich, on Sept. 19, 1946, he urged the formation of "a council
of Europe" and himself attended the first assembly of the council
at Strasbourg in 1949. Meanwhile, he busied himself with his great history,
The Second World War, six volumes (1948-53).
The general election of February 1950 afforded Churchill an opportunity
to seek again a personal mandate. He abstained from the extravagances
of 1945 and campaigned with his party rather than above it.
The electoral onslaught shook Labour but left them still in office.
It took what Churchill called "one more heave" to defeat them
in a second election, in October 1951. Churchill again took a vigorous
lead in the campaign. He pressed the government particularly hard on
its handling of the crisis caused by Iran's nationalization of British
oil companies and in return had to withstand charges of warmongering.
The Conservatives were returned with a narrow majority of 26, and Churchill
became prime minister for the second time. He formed a government in
which the more liberal Conservatives predominated, though the Liberal
Party itself declined Churchill's suggestion of office. A prominent
figure in the government was R.A. Butler, the progressive-minded chancellor
of the Exchequer. Anthony Eden was foreign secretary. Some notable Churchillians
were included, among them Lord Cherwell, who, as paymaster general,
was principal scientific adviser with special responsibilities for atomic
research and development.
As prime minister again.
The domestic labours and battles of his administration were far from
Churchill's main concerns. Derationing, decontrolling, rehousing, safeguarding
the precarious balance of payments--these were relatively noncontroversial
policies; only the return of nationalized steel and road transport to
private hands aroused excitement. Critics sometimes complained of a
lack of prime ministerial direction in these areas and, indeed, of a
certain slackness in the reins of government. Undoubtedly Churchill
was getting older and reserving more and more of his energies for what
he regarded as the supreme issues, peace and war. He was convinced that
Labour had allowed the transatlantic relationship to sag, and one of
his first acts was to visit Washington, D.C., (and also Ottawa) in January
1952 to repair the damage he felt had been done. The visit helped to
check U.S. fears that the British would desert the Korean War, harmonized
attitudes toward German rearmament and, distasteful though it was to
Churchill, resulted in the acceptance of a U.S. naval commander in chief
of the eastern Atlantic. It did not produce that sharing of secrets
of atom bomb manufacture that Churchill felt had unfairly lapsed after
the war. To the disappointment of many, Churchill's advocacy of European
union did not result in active British participation; his government
confined itself to endorsement from the sidelines, though in 1954, faced
with the collapse of the European Defense Community, Churchill and Eden
came forward with a pledge to maintain British troops on the Continent
for as long as necessary.
The year 1953 was in many respects a gratifying one for Churchill. It
brought the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which drew out all his
love of the historic and symbolic. He personally received two notable
distinctions, the Order of the Garter and the Nobel Prize for Literature.
However, his hopes for a revitalized "special relationship"
with Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower during his tenure in the White House,
beginning in 1953, were largely frustrated. A sudden stroke in June,
which caused partial paralysis, obliged Churchill to cancel a planned
Bermuda meeting at which he hoped to secure Eisenhower's agreement to
summit talks with the Russians. By October, Churchill had made a remarkable
recovery and the meeting was held in December. But it did not yield
results commensurate with Churchill's hopes. The two leaders, for all
their amity, were not the men they once were; their subordinates, John
Foster Dulles and Anthony Eden, were antipathetic; and, above all, the
role and status of each country had changed. In relation to the Far
East in particular there was a persistent failure to see eye to eye.
Though Churchill and Eden visited Washington, D.C., in June 1954 in
hopes of securing U.S. acceptance of the Geneva Accords designed to
bring an end to the war in Indochina, their success was limited. Over
Egypt, however, Churchill's conversion to an agreement permitting a
phased withdrawal of British troops from the Suez base won Eisenhower's
endorsement and encouraged hopes, illusory as it subsequently appeared,
of good Anglo-American cooperation in this area. In 1955, "arming
to parley," Churchill authorized the manufacture of a British hydrogen
bomb while still striving for a summit conference. Age, however, robbed
him of this last triumph. His powers were too visibly failing. His 80th
birthday, on Nov. 30, 1954, had been the occasion of a unique all-party
ceremony of tribute and affection in Westminster Hall. But the tribute
implied a pervasive assumption that he would soon retire. On April 5,
1955, his resignation took place, only a few weeks before his chosen
successor, Sir Anthony Eden, announced plans for a four-power conference
Retirement and death.
Although Churchill laid down the burdens of office amid the plaudits
of the nation and the world, he remained in the House of Commons (declining
a peerage) to become "father of the house" and even, in 1959,
to fight and win yet another election. He also published another major
work, A History of the English- Speaking Peoples, four volumes (1956-58).
But his health declined, and his public appearances became rare. On
April 9, 1963, he was accorded the unique distinction of having an honorary
U.S. citizenship conferred on him by an act of Congress. His death at
his London home on Jan. 24, 1965, was followed by a state funeral at
which almost the whole world paid tribute. He was buried in the family
grave in Bladon churchyard, Oxfordshire.
In any age and time a man of Churchill's force and talents would have
left his mark on events and society. A gifted journalist, a biographer
and historian of classic proportions, an amateur painter of talent,
an orator of rare power, a soldier of courage and distinction, Churchill,
by any standards, was a man of rare versatility. But it was as a public
figure that he excelled. His experience of office was second only to
Gladstone's, and his gifts as a parliamentarian hardly less, but it
was as a wartime leader that he left his indelible imprint on the history
of Britain and on the world. In this capacity, at the peak of his powers,
he united in a harmonious whole his liberal convictions about social
reform, his deep conservative devotion to the legacy of his nation's
history, his unshakable resistance to tyranny from the right or from
the left, and his capacity to look beyond Britain to the larger Atlantic
community and the ultimate unity of Europe. A romantic, he was also
a realist, with an exceptional sensitivity to tactical considerations
at the same time as he unswervingly adhered to his strategical objectives.
A fervent patriot, he was also a citizen of the world. An indomitable
fighter, he was a generous victor. Even in the transition from war to
peace, a phase in which other leaders have often stumbled, he revealed,
at an advanced age, a capacity to learn and to adjust that was in many
respects superior to that of his younger colleagues.
The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898); The River War (1899);
The World Crisis (1923-29); The Unknown War: The Eastern Front (1931);
The Second World War (1948-53); A History of the English-Speaking Peoples
Biography and autobiography.
Lord Randolph Churchill (1906); My African Journey (1908); My Early
Life (1930); Marlborough: His Life and Times (1933-38).
Into Battle (1941); The Unrelenting Struggle (1942); The End of the
Beginning (1943); Onwards to Victory (1944); The Dawn of Liberation
(1945); Victory (1946); Secret Session Speeches (1946); The Sinews of
Peace (1948); Europe Unite (1950); In the Balance (1951); Stemming the
Tide (1953); The Unwritten Alliance (1961). The speeches have been collected
in Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963, 8 vol. (1974).
Savrola (1900); Thoughts and Adventures (1932); Painting As a Pastime
Randolph S. Churchill and Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, 8 vol.
(1966-88), is the official biography, each volume covering a successive
span of years and supported by companion volumes of documents. Martin
Gilbert, Churchill: A Life (1991), is a one-volume condensation of the
previous multivolume work. Churchill's own writings are an indispensable
autobiographical source, especially While England Slept: A Survey of
World Affairs, 1932-1938 (1938, reprinted 1971; also published as Arms
and the Covenant: Speeches, 1938, reissued 1975), with a preface and
notes by Randolph Churchill. Violet Bonham Carter, Winston Churchill:
An Intimate Portrait (1965, reissued 1994; also published as Winston
Churchill As I Knew Him, 1965, reissued 1995), is a vivid memoir. Lord
Moran (Charles McMoran Wilson, Baron Moran), Churchill: The Struggle
for Survival, 1940-1965 (1966, reissued 1976; also published as Winston
Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940-1965, 1966), written by his
physician, gives intimate glimpses of his late years. Other biographical
works are John Colville, The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries,
1939-1955 (1985), a portrait of Churchill by the civil servant who was
his private secretary during most of World War II and again in 1951-55;
Henry Pelling, Winston Churchill, 2nd ed. (1989), a comprehensive work;
William Manchester, The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill (1983-
); and Norman Rose, Churchill: An Unruly Life (1994; also published
as Churchill: The Unruly Giant, 1995). His relationship with other world
leaders is explored in Joseph P. Lash, Roosevelt and Churchill, 1939-1941:
The Partnership That Saved the West (1976), a study that illustrates
the importance of Churchill's strong personality and the force of his
ideas; Francois Kersaudy, Churchill and de Gaulle (1981, reissued 1990);
Warren F. Kimball (ed.), Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence,
3 vol. (1984); Robin Edmonds, The Big Three: Churchill, Roosevelt, and
Stalin in Peace & War (1991); and Keith Sainsbury, Churchill and
Roosevelt at War: The War They Fought and the Peace They Hoped to Make
(1994). R. Crosby Kemper III (ed.), Winston Churchill: Resolution, Defiance,
Magnanimity, Good Will (1996), collects essays illustrating various
aspects of his life and career.