Sir Winston Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was the British prime minister during the Second World War.
- Strategy: military (5) and gold (2).
- Favourite religion: Christianity.
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Winston Churchill, whose full name was, "Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill," was undoubtedly one of the most important people of the twentieth century. At various times a soldier, journalist, author, and politician, during his long life Churchill was known for both his intellectual brilliance and his outspoken support for what were often unpopular opinions. At various times he was either the most beloved or the most hated man in Britain. In the years since his death Churchill's reputation has grown to semi-legendary proportions.
A descendant of the famous English general the Duke of Marlborough, Churchill was born in 1874 at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. After a mediocre performance at the public school Harrow, Churchill joined the army, where he freely used his family connections to get assigned to several colonial wars, narrowly escaping death on a number of occasions - and by all accounts having a ripping good time while doing so. During this period Churchill became a very popular wartime journalist, writing numerous columns and several best-selling books about his experiences. Churchill's maneuvering and flagrant self-promotion alienated his fellow officers and essentially ended any chance of high promotion in the Army; however, he was able to parlay his popularity to gain a seat in Parliament.
In 1900 Churchill was elected to a Conservative seat in Parliament. However, in 1904 his strong opposition to the Conservative policy of tariff protectionism led him to change parties and join the Liberals, who held power at the time. In the Liberal government Churchill held a number of different minor posts. In 1911 he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, overseeing the Royal Navy's ambitious modernization program.
During the First World War, Churchill approved the disastrous Gallipoli invasion of Turkey. Churchill was soundly criticized for the failure, and in 1916 he resigned the Admiralty and left the government, rejoined the army and went off to the Western Front to fight in the trenches.
Despite his many eccentricities and flaws, however, Churchill was widely recognized as one of the ablest men in Great Britain, and in 1917 he was back in government again, holding a number of important Cabinet posts. After the Liberal Government fell in 1923 Churchill swapped parties once again and joined the Conservatives, famously saying, "Anyone can rat [change parties], but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat." He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924 and presided over Britain's disastrous return to the Gold Standard, for which he was again soundly criticized. After the Conservative Government fell in the 1929 General Election, Churchill lost his government post and became estranged from the political power brokers in both parties.
The rise of Nazi Germany also led to a resurgence of Churchill's political career. Although he had earlier praised Fascist Italy as a bulwark against communism, in the late 1930s Churchill became one of the few voices speaking out against the growing power of Hitler. When the British government adopted the policy of appeasement, Churchill was almost alone in voicing opposition, a position which gained him a number of admirers, but which also earned him a lot of public and political criticism.
When the Second World War broke out, the public lost a great deal confidence in the government of Neville Chamberlain (who had spearheaded the policy of appeasing Hitler). To shore up support for his government Chamberlain asked Churchill to resume his post as First Lord of the Admiralty. Showing genuine greatness of character Churchill accepted the position, working tirelessly to improve the Royal Navy and absolutely refusing to criticize his Prime Minister during wartime. However, by early 1941 it was clear that Chamberlain no longer enjoyed the confidence of the people or of Parliament, and Churchill was appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain.
In the west the war began catastrophically for the Allies. The Germans launched their attack against the British and French forces in 1940. Supported by air power and infantry, the German tanks had outflanked the Allied positions, forcing the French and British into precipitous retreat, advancing so rapidly that the defenders didn't have enough time to reform a new line. The Germans came within inches of destroying the British army, forcing it to abandon all of its equipment and stage a chaotic evacuation at Dunkirk, leaving thousands of British soldiers behind to be captured. France was forced to surrender, and German soldiers occupied Paris.
As past events had foreshadowed, Churchill was at his very best during adversity. Britain stood alone against Hitler. Her army was badly crippled; only the Royal Navy and Air Force stood between the British and the Germans. Churchill worked tirelessly to shore up Britain's defenses and to find allies against Hitler, and his brilliant rhetoric rallied the battered spirits of the British people and earned him the admiration of people across the world. Throughout the dark days of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz that followed, Churchill seemed to hold the empire together by sheer indomitable force of will.
Diplomatically, Churchill was an opportunist. Despite his hatred of Communism and his extreme personal dislike of Stalin (who had earlier allied with Germany to gobble up Poland), when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union Churchill sought an alliance with the USSR, famously saying, "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." His most important diplomatic task, however, was to cultivate the good will - and eventually the military intervention - of the United States.
It can be argued that Churchill's friendship with American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved Great Britain from destruction. Facing strong internal opposition to becoming involved in the war, at first the President had to move slowly, maintaining at least a nominal appearance of neutrality while gradually shifting American public opinion from Isolation to Intervention. However, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941, Germany stupidly declared war against the United States, allowing Roosevelt to openly bring the growing might of the US military and industrial complex to Great Britain's (and the USSR's) aid.
Within a very short period the US Army Air Force was attacking German targets in Europe, and soon thereafter large numbers of American troops were staged in Great Britain, ending forever any chance of a successful German invasion. As the war progressed the growing English and American forces launched a major invasion of Europe while their air forces pounded German factories and cities around the clock, crippling the Nazis enough to allow the Soviet Union to annihilate the German army in the Eastern Front.
After the war ended in victory Churchill lost power almost immediately - perhaps because the people thought he was too old, or because they didn't believe he was the correct leader to rebuild the shattered empire. Though he remained in Parliament for a number of years (and briefly regained the post of Prime Minister during the Suez Crisis), by and large Churchill's direct participation in world events was at an end.
After being voted out of office Churchill wrote a history of the Second World War, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. In 1965 Churchill suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 90. Churchill's death was mourned across the globe, and his funeral was attended by an enormous number of foreign dignitaries. His reputation has only grown in the years since his death, and today Churchill is possibly the most popular and revered figure in all of English history.
- The background depicts the door of 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister of the UK.
- Churchill removes his top hat when opening his diplomacy screen.