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Sir Winston Churchill

A Biography of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

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Picture of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain

(Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Who Was Winston Churchill?

Winston Churchill was a legendary orator, a prolific writer, an earnest artist, and a long-term British statesman. Yet Churchill, who twice served the as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is best remembered as the tenacious and forthright war leader that led his country against the seemingly undefeatable Nazis during World War II.

Dates: November 30, 1874 -- January 24, 1965

Also Known As: Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

Overview of Winston Churchill:

The Young Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was born in 1874 at his grandfather's home, Blenheim Palace in Marlborough, England. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a member of the British Parliament and his mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American heiress. Six years after Winston's birth, his brother Jack was born.

Since Churchill's parents traveled extensively and led busy social lives, Churchill spent most of his younger years with his nanny, Elizabeth Everest. It was Mrs. Everest that nurtured Churchill and cared for him during his many childhood illnesses. Churchill stayed in touch with her until her death in 1895.

At age eight, Churchill was sent off to boarding school. He was never an excellent student but he was well liked and known as a bit of a troublemaker. In 1887, 12-year-old Churchill was accepted to the prestigious Harrow school, where he began studying military tactics.

After graduating from Harrow, Churchill was accepted into the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1893. In December 1894, Churchill graduated near the top of his class and was given a commission as a cavalry officer.

Churchill, the Soldier and War Correspondent

After seven months of basic training, Churchill was given his first leave. Instead of going home to relax, Churchill wanted to see action; so he traveled to Cuba to watch Spanish troops put down a rebellion. Churchill didn't go just as an interested soldier, he made plans to be a war correspondent for London's The Daily Graphic. It was the beginning of a long writing career.

When his leave was up, Churchill traveled with his regiment to India. Churchill also saw action in India when fighting Afghan tribes. This time, again not just a soldier, Churchill wrote letters to London's The Daily Telegraph. From these experiences, Churchill also wrote his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898).

Churchill then joined Lord Kitchener's expedition in the Sudan while also writing for The Morning Post. After seeing a lot of action in the Sudan, Churchill used his experiences to write The River War (1899).

Again wanting to be at the scene of the action, Churchill managed in 1899 to become the war correspondent for The Morning Post during the Boer War in South Africa. Not only was Churchill shot at, he was captured. After spending nearly a month as a prisoner of war, Churchill managed to escape and miraculously made it to safety. He also turned these experiences into a book - London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900).

Becoming a Politician

While fighting in all these wars, Churchill had decided that he wanted to help make policy, not just follow it. So when 25-year-old Churchill returned to England as both a famous author and a war hero, he was able to successfully run for election as a member of Parliament (MP). This was the start of Churchill's very long political career.

Churchill quickly became known for being outspoken and full of energy. He gave speeches against tariffs and in support of social changes for the poor. It soon became clear that he did not hold the beliefs of the Conservative Party, so he switched to the Liberal Party in 1904.

In 1905, the Liberal Party won the national election and Churchill was asked to become the Under-Secretary of State at the Colonial Office.

Churchill's dedication and efficiency earned him an excellent reputation and he was quickly promoted. In 1908, he was made President of the Board of Trade (a Cabinet position) and in 1910, Churchill was made Home Secretary (a more important Cabinet position).

In October 1911, Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty, which meant he was in charge of the British navy. Churchill, worried about Germany's growing military strength, spent the next three years working diligently to strengthen the British navy.

Family

Churchill was a very busy man. He was nearly continuously writing books, articles, and speeches as well as holding important government positions. However, he made time for romance when he met Clementine Hozier in March 1908. The two were engaged on August 11 of that same year and married just a month later on September 12, 1908.

Winston and Clementine had five children together and remained married until Winston's death at age 90.

Churchill and World War I

At first, when the war began in 1914, Churchill was praised for the work he had done behind the scenes to prepare Britain for war. However, things quickly started to go badly for Churchill.

Churchill had always been energetic, determined, and confident. Couple these traits with the fact that Churchill liked to be part of the action and you have Churchill trying to have his hands in all military matters, not only those dealing with the navy. Many felt that Churchill overstepped his position.

Then came the Dardanelles campaign. It was meant to be a combined naval and infantry attack on the Dardanelles in Turkey, but when things went badly for the British, Churchill was blamed for the whole thing.

Since both the public and officials turned against Churchill after the Dardanelles disaster, Churchill was swiftly moved out of government.

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