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Winston Churchill

Biography >> World War II


Winston Churchill was one of the great world leaders of the 20th century. His leadership helped Britain to stand strong against Hitler and the Germans, even when they were the last country left fighting. He is also famous for his inspiring speeches and quotes.

Childhood and Growing Up

Winston was born November 30th, 1874 in Oxfordshire, England. He was actually born in a room in a palace named Blenheim Palace. His parents were wealthy aristocrats. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a politician who held many high offices in the British government.

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
from the Library of Congress

Joining the Military

Churchill attended the Royal Military College and joined the British cavalry upon graduation. He traveled to many places while with the military and worked as a newspaper correspondent, writing stories about battles and being in the military.

While in South Africa during the Second Boer War, Winston Churchill was captured and became a Prisoner of War. He managed to escape from prison and traveled 300 miles to be rescued. As a result, he became something of a hero in Britain for a while.

Rise to Power

In 1900 Churchill was elected to Parliament. Over the next 30 years he would hold a number of different offices in the government including a cabinet post in 1908. His career had many ups and downs during this time, but he also became famous for many of his writings.

Prime Minister

At the outbreak of World War II, Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in command of the Royal Navy. At the same time the current Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, wanted to appease Germany and Hitler. Churchill knew this would not work and warned the government that they needed to help fight Hitler or Hitler would soon take over all of Europe.

As Germany continued to advance, the country lost confidence in Chamberlain. Finally, Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill was chosen to be his successor as Prime Minister on May 10, 1940.

World War II

Soon after becoming Prime Minister, Germany invaded France and Britain was alone in Europe fighting Hitler. Churchill inspired the country to keep fighting despite the bad circumstances. He also helped to forge an alliance of Allied Powers with the Soviet Union and the United States. Even though he did not like Joseph Stalin and the communists of the Soviet Union, he knew the Allies needed their help to fight Germany.

Stalin, FDR, and Churchill
Tehran Conference
from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
Churchill with President Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin

With the Allies help, and Winston's leadership, the British were able to hold off Hitler. After a long and brutal war they were able to defeat Hitler and the Germans.

Churchill waving to crowd after victory
Churchill waving to the crowd after the end of World War II
Churchill on VE Day
by a War Office official photographer

After the War

After the war, Churchill's party lost the election and he was no longer Prime Minister. He was still a major leader in the government, however. He was again elected Prime Minister in 1951. He served the country for many years and then retired. He died on January 24, 1965.

Churchill was concerned about the Soviet Union and the Red Army. He felt they were just as dangerous as Hitler now that the Germans were defeated. He was right as soon after World War II ended, the Cold War between the Western nations of NATO (such as Britain, France, USA) and communist Soviet Union began.

Famous Quotes

Winston Churchill was famous for his rousing speeches and quotes. Here are a few of his famous quotes:

In a speech criticizing the appeasement of Hitler, he said "You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war."

He also said of appeasement: "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

In his first speech as Prime Minister he said "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

In a speech about fighting the Germans he said "We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

When talking about the RAF during the Battle of Britain he said "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

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