Welcome back! If you hadn’t already guessed, today’s trip will be a whistle-stop tour, as it were, of Churchill’s life up until 1929. Before we begin, a quick safety notice. Please can you keep your hands and feet inside the vessel whilst in transit. Our team are great but even they struggle to track down a stray hand in the time-space continuum. Also, the paper work has to be moved with a forklift truck so just don’t. Anyway, buckle up, place your limbs firmly inside the vehicle and prepare yourself for Winston Churchill’s life!
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born on the 30th November 1874 to Lord and Lady Churchill. He wasn’t the most intelligent child, just about getting into Harrow at the bottom of his class. This lead to his father believing his son would be better suited to a life in the military.
Now, without a doubt, Churchill is best known for his time as Britain’s Prime Minister during the turbulent Second World War. However, his acceptance into the military was far from easy. He failed the admittance examination into Sandhurst 3 times but he did, eventually, manage to secure his place (Personally demonstrating that you should never, never, never give up). He felt very comfortable with life at Sandhurst and his hard work was helping him to finally build bridges with his father whom respected his effort. However, before this relationship could cement itself fully, Randolph Churchill tragically passed away at the age of 45 of a heart attack.
It was in his father’s passing that Churchill began to develop his second well known skill of speech-making. Following his father’s premature demise, Churchill was convinced that he had to make his mark on life as soon as possible. After some brief rioting (Over restricted access to bars, a noble cause…) with his fellow cadets, Churchill delivered a speech at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square. This would be the first of many speeches delivered by a man who struggled to speak fluidly.
Winston graduated from Sandhurst in February 1895 and was given the position of a cavalry officer in the 4th Hussars. Alongside this role, he was also a war reporter. This position took to places such as Cuba where he developed his two lifelong habits of cigar-smoking and napping He then went to places like India and Sudan, the latter of which saw Churchill fight for Queen and Country. It was during his time abroad that his interest in politics blossomed. Lacking a university education, Churchill dedicated a great deal of time to reading, particularly old political debates which he himself gave imaginary contributions.
Churchill’s path to fame was kick started by a story of adventure and daring during the Boer War of 1899. Churchill was captured when his armoured train was ambushed and he was imprisoned at Pretoria. However, on December 12th, Churchill managed to escape, hiding amongst some sacks, and return to Durban a hero.
It was this fame that helped Churchill progress his political career. In 1900 he was elected the MP for Oldham. He went on to give his first parliamentary speech in 1901, overcoming his lisp with his later-renowned high level of preparation (Hours and hours of practice, I assure you, went to almost all his speeches). Churchill was a man of principle and he wasn’t afraid to disagree with his superiors. This stubbornness contributed to the formation of the ‘Hughligans’ – a group of young Conservative MPs who specialised in harassing their party leader. Even Churchill was a bit of rebel back in the day.
Churchill’s disagreements with the Conservatives got so far that he left the party all together, opting to instead work for the Liberal Party. From his more, well, liberated position Churchill staged a full-on verbal assault of the Conservatives, criticising their abandonment of their core principles. This gained him respect high up and, in 1908, he became the youngest cabinet minister under Lloyd-George. He, along with Lloyd-George, brought about social reforms that would lay the groundwork for the Welfare State that Britain now has today.
Churchill wasn’t all about the job, though. Churchill was, arguably, quite the romantic but social awkwardness put him a difficult position (You and me both, Winston, you and me both (Social awkwardness that is, I can’t judge the former). In 1904, he met Clementine Hozier whom he failed to make a good impression on (The first time), what with him currently in love with another women and his aforementioned awkwardness. However, in 1908, despite 3 previous rejections of marriage, she accepted his marriage proposal (Having only really reacquainted a few months prior (Love works in mysterious ways, so I’m told)).
Disaster struck in 1914 as, as I’m sure you’re all aware, the assassination of one Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife triggered the first major conflict of the 20th Century, the Great War. Churchill decided that Britain’s best chance of success was through the utilisation of the Navy. He was able to persuade his colleagues in the cabinet in support of a strong naval force and, on the 4th of August 1914, Britain declared War on Germany.
Churchill was an effective strategist, earning him the title of the First Lord of the Admiralty. His expertise lay not in the fine details of a battle plan but the speed at which he responded to a threat, much faster than any of his colleagues. Despite this, Churchill orchestrated some heavy losses that soured his reputation indubitably. The most famous of these defeats was Gallipoli.
In theory, Churchill’s proposed move could have ended the war sooner. His plan: Open a new front by invading Turkey and pushing North. This would strain the German line and help the Allies push against them. However, in practice, it was a hefty failure. The troops sent to capture Constantinople met heavier resistance than they were expecting, consequently resulting in numerous casualties and a bloody campaign overall. The failure of this attack cast very different limelight on Churchill than the Young Soldier who escaped enemy capture. He was forced to resign and Churchill withdrew from the Public eye for a while.
During his time away, Churchill’s political standings realigned with those of the Conservative Party and, in 1924, he managed to gain the seat in Epping for the Party. Despite the damage on his reputation from the Gallipoli Disaster, Churchill was even offered the position a Chancellor, a position held by his father. However, Churchill faced another major problem. As Chancellor, Churchill reinstated the Gold standard, a system which set the value of the pound to a certain value of gold. It resulted in a serious blow to industries and a collapse of the exports market as an overvalued pound was not overly appealing to other nations.
The Gold Standard had a knock-on effect on the entire party (Though I should add it was not the sole reason for the party’s decline). Trade Unions ordered a general strike, further hindering Britain and bringing it to a near standstill. In 1929, a Labour victory at the General election saw Churchill removed from the position of Chancellor. Thus, the Wilderness Years began…
I’m afraid we have reached our final stop for this brief look at Churchill’s life up to the year 1929. Naturally, this is a bare bones recount of the life of a well documented man. If you should wish to learn more about Churchill, I recommend looking into Humanity’s very own time machines: Books. There are hundreds of books that look at different aspects of Churchill’s life, be it his political career, military service or home life. If books aren’t your thing, Google Churchill and you will most definitely find a number of documentaries which again cover many aspects of his life. I hope you have enjoyed the trip today and I would like to invite you all to join me next time where we will be taking a look at some of the great works of Archimedes! Please leave any thoughts, questions, suggestions for future posts or feedback below. Thank you!