Winston Churchill was born in 1874 into an aristocratic family. A rebellious child, he did poorly in school, attending three different schools before finally getting involved in the military in 1888 at his last school. He did well there, and excelled at fencing, but had a distant relationship with his mother, and a strained one at best with his father.
He entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1893, applying to be cavalry rather than infantry to avoid doing mathematics. he graduated in late 1894 and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in early 1895. Around this time he became involved in war correspondence to supplement his income, which he didn't feel was sufficient for a young officer such as himself to live on. He travelled to Cuba
in 1895 to observe the fights between guerrillas and the Spanish
. He later stayed in America, where a friend of his mother helped him develop both his oratorical skills and political interests, as well as a love of America. In 1896 he was sent to Bombay, India
, and then in 1897 ordered to observe and report on the Greco
War, and to get involved in the fighting if necessary. However, the fighting had ended before he arrived, and he fought instead against a Pashtun tribe in India, becoming involved in the Siege of Malakand. In 1898 he was transferred to Egypt
, where he was involved in the Battle of Omdurman and worked as a war correspondent. In 1898 he returned to England
and began work on his first book, The River War
. He also first became involved in politics, running as a Conservative candidate in the Oldham by-elections, which he lost.
In 1899 he returned to military action with the beginning of the Second Boer War, where he acted as a war correspondent for the Morning Post
. He was captured in an ambush shortly after arriving, and imprisoned in a POW camp in South Africa
. He escaped and, rather than returning home to England, rejoined the war effort, this time as both war correspondent and soldier. His escape made him a hero in England for a brief time. In 1900 he returned to England, published two more books, then went on a speaking tour of England, America and Canada
. He ran again in Oldham, and this time was successful. This same year he retired from the regular army. In 1902 he was commissioned as a Captain.
In 1904 he met his wife, Clementine Hozier, whom he married in 1908. Together they had 5 children, the eldest of whom was born in 1909, and the youngest in 1922.
In 1905 he was promoted to Major. When World War I broke out in 1914 he was First Lord of the Admiralty, but soon left the after the fiasco in the Battle of Gallipolli. He was given command of a battalion as major, then in 1916 he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel. His command was characterized by recklessness. Later in 1916 he returned to England and was transferred to the territorial reserves. He was appointed Minister of Munitions in 1918, and then Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air in 1919. While involved in the war ministry he was heavily involved in promoting involvement in the Russian
Civil War, hoping to prevent the spread of communism before it could gain a foothold. He was made Secretary of State for the Colonies, and was one of the signatories of the Anglo-Irish
Treaty in 1921, which he made sure protected British maritime interests.
In 1922 he fell ill and was unable to campaign, losing his seat. He continued running unsuccessfully as a Liberal, before finally achieving success as an independent in 1924. He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer that same year. He rejoined the Conservative party in 1925. He returned Britain to the Gold Standard, which resulted in deflation and strikes, and which he later regarded as one of his greatest mistakes. It led to the General Strike of 1926, during which time he was editor of the British Gazette
, and voiced his admiration for the Italian fascist Benito Mussolini
, support which he continued up until 1937.
In 1929 he began to grow estranged from the Conservative party after their loss in the 1929 election. In the 1931 he was not invited to become a Cabinet member. He spent these years writing more books. Throughout the 1930s he vocally opposed granting India dominion, and was in favour of allowing Gandhi to die, should he attempt a hunger strike. He continued on bad terms with the Conservative party, especially over the India issue. He was vocally opposed to German
rearmament from early in the 1930s, and urged the renewal of the RAF
and ties with the League of Nations, as well as the formation of a Ministry of Defense. When Germany occupied the Rhineland in 1936 England was divided about how to react. Though he was regarded favourably by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, he was not given the position of Minister for Co-Ordination of Defense. He was publicly critical of the government's policy of inaction and appeasement in the build-up to war. During the abdication crisis, in which King Edward VIII gave up the throne to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson, Churchill came out in support of the King, a decision which badly damaged his public image as well as his reputation in the government.
Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in 1939 after England declared war on Germany. He supported an invasion of Norway
to protect it, but the rest of the War Cabinet disagreed, and they delayed the action until it was too late and Germany had successfully invaded. In 1940, Chamberlain advised that Churchill be made prime minster. King George VI agreed, and Churchill formed an all-party coalition government. While in office Churchill, who had long been warning of the threat posed by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany
, refused to attempt to negotiate with Hitler. He was quick to use his considerable oratorical skills to turn the public as well against an armistice. He created and assumed the position of Minister of Defense, and stepped up the production of airplanes. Churchill had a good relationship with the United States, and especially with president Franklin D. Roosevelt
. Through Roosevelt, Churchill was able to obtain a great deal of military machinery practically for free.
His health was poor, and in December of 1941 he suffered a heart attack, though neither this nor his contracting pneumonia prevented him from working on matters of war. Beginning in 1943 he negotiated with other Allied leaders to redraw the barriers of Europe
and determine the fate of Germany after the war. This was accomplished mainly at Potsdam, when he met with new president Harry S. Truman
and Josef Stalin
. Despite his opposition to communism
, he still came down favourably on the side of Stalin's government, saying, "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons," after the invasion of Russia. In 1945 a joint British and American bombing run was conducted over Dresden that resulted in a controversy due to the number of civilian casualties in Dresden. It was one of the most controversial Allied actions during the war, and the blame was ultimately placed completely on Churchill.
In May Churchill announced to the nation that the war with Germany had been won. While his people celebrated, Churchill remained vigilant of the threat posed by the Red Army, and advocated attacking the Red Army on June 1st, 1945, a move which was rejected by his military chiefs.
After the War
In 1945 he was defeated in the elections, and acted as Leader of the Opposition for the following six year while England restructured itself after the war. He continued to have an active political life, and remained heavily opposed to the USSR. He suffered another stroke in 1949.
He became Prime Minister and Minister of Defense again in 1951 after the general election. During his second tenure he was involved in a number of foreign crises, including the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya
and the war in Malaya. In 1953 he suffered another, more serious stroke. In 1955 he resigned due to his failing health, suffering another, more mild stroke in 1956. In 1963 President John F. Kennedy
declared him an honourary citizen of the United States. His health continued to decline until 1964, when he decided to stand down in the general election, though he attempted to remain involved in politics until the end of his life.
In January 1965 he suffered another, far more serious stroke. He died on January 24th, 1965 at the age of 90.