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History of Sir Winston Churchill
History of the UK Government
Past Prime Ministers
Sir Winston Churchill
Conservative 1951 to 1955, 1940 to 1945
Winston Churchill was an inspirational statesman, writer, orator and leader who led Britain to victory in the Second World War. He served as Conservative Prime Minister twice - from 1940 to 1945 (before being defeated in the 1945 general election by the Labour leader Clement Attlee) and from 1951 to 1955.
30 November 1874, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
24 January 1965, London
Dates in office
1951 to 1955, 1940 to 1945
Education Act 1944: raised the school leavers age to 14; introduction of the 11+.
Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his many published works. More information including archive footage can be found at the Churchill War Rooms.
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Winston Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire and was of rich, aristocratic ancestry. Although achieving poor grades at school, his early fascination with militarism saw him join the Royal Cavalry in 1895. As a soldier and part-time journalist, Churchill travelled widely, including trips to Cuba, Afghanistan, Egypt and South Africa.
Churchill was elected as Conservative MP for Oldham in 1900, before defecting to the Liberal Party in 1904 and spending the next decade climbing the ranks of the Liberal government. He was First Lord of the Admiralty (the civil/political head of the Royal Navy) by the time of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, which he created. Heavily criticised for this error, he resigned from this position and travelled to the Western Front to fight himself.
The interwar years saw Churchill again ‘cross the floor’ from the Liberals, back to the Conservative Party. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924, when he controversially opted for Britain to re-join the Gold Standard. Following the Tory electoral defeat in 1929, Churchill lost his seat and spent much of the next 11 years out of office, mainly writing and making speeches. Although he was alone in his firm opposition to Indian Independence, his warnings against the Appeasement of Nazi Germany were proven correct when the Second World War broke out in 1939.
Following Neville Chamberlain’s resignation in 1940, Churchill was chosen to succeed him as Prime Minister of an all-party coalition government.
Churchill, who also adopted the self-created position of Minister for Defence, was active both in administrative and diplomatic functions in prosecuting the British war effort. Some of his most memorable speeches were given in this period, and are credited with stimulating British morale during periods of great hardship. However, Labour leader Clement Attlee’s unexpected General Election victory in 1945 saw Churchill out of office and once again concentrating on public speaking. In his 1946 speech in the USA, the instinctive pro-American famously declared that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent”, and warned of the continued danger from a powerful Soviet Russia.
By his re-election in 1951, Churchill was, in the words of Roy Jenkins, “gloriously unfit for office”. Ageing and increasingly unwell, he often conducted business from his bedside, and while his powerful personality and oratory ability endured, the Prime Minister’s leadership was less decisive than during the war. His second term was most notable for the Conservative Party’s acceptance of Labour’s newly created Welfare State, and Churchill’s effect on domestic policy was limited. His later attempts at decreasing the developing Cold War through personal diplomacy failed to produce significant results, and poor health forced him to resign in 1955, making way for his Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Eden.
Churchill died in 1965, and was honoured with a state funeral.
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Sir Winston Churchill: iconic wartime leader, twice Prime Minister, author, amateur artist and enthusiastic bricklayer...
by Jessica Brain
On 30th November 1874, Winston Churchill was born. One of the most famous politicians of all time, twice Prime Minister and an inspirational leader in time of war, he would lead Britain to victory in World War Two. Churchill remains to this day one of the most popular and significant figures in political history.
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born at his family’s ancestral home of Blenheim Palace, as a direct descendant of the Dukes of Marlborough. His family occupied the highest echelons of society and he was born into Britain’s aristocratic governing elite.
Political office ran in his blood: his grandfather, John Spencer-Churchill had been a Member of Parliament serving under Benjamin Disraeli, whilst his father Lord Randolph Churchill was MP for Woodstock. On his mother’s side he was of American descendant. Jennie Jerome was a beautiful lady from a wealthy family who had caught Randolph’s eye in August 1873; three days later they were engaged. As they say, the rest is history.
A young Winston Churchill led quite a dour life early on, unhappy in childhood and failing to get the grades at Harrow, his interest in the military proved to be his saving grace. His father decided it would be a good idea for him to enter the army as a profession and after the third attempt he passed the necessary exams and entered what is now Sandhurst Academy. Whilst at military college he managed to acquire the skills and knowledge to graduate in the top twenty of around one hundred and thirty pupils in the class. In 1895 his father sadly passed away and a young Winston joined the Royal Cavalry.
Whilst on leave he entered the world of journalism which found him reporting on the Cuban War of Independence from Spain. By the following year he found himself back in the regiment and travelling to India, where he worked as both a soldier and journalist. He remained posted there for around nineteen months in which time he took part in expeditions to Hyderabad and the North West Frontier.
As part of the British Army and working as a correspondent reporting for newspapers back in Britain, he travelled to India, Sudan and South Africa, documenting the unfolding events via newspaper articles and later turning some of the accounts into successful books.
During this time he also proved to be outspoken about the issues he witnessed and the handling of events. For example, he did not approve of Kitchener’s treatment of injured captured soldiers during the Anglo-Sudan war. During the Second Boer War, after escaping as a prisoner of war and making his way to Pretoria, he served as a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse regiment and was outspoken in his criticism of the British hatred of the Boers.
Upon his return to Britain, Churchill threw himself into political life and in 1900 became a Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency of Oldham. Only four years later he would change his allegiance to the Liberal Party, commenting about himself in a correspondence that he had “drifted steadily to the left”.
Churchill in 1900
He had increasingly associated himself with the Liberals in parliament and aligned himself to several of their interests. In 1903 he had backed the Liberal vote against the use of Chinese labourers in South Africa and favoured a bill which restored the rights of trade unions. He had also been an outspoken critic of the Conservative policy of economic protectionism. His drift towards the Liberals proved inevitable and so when Balfour resigned and the Liberal leader Henry Campbell-Bannerman won, Churchill switched sides and won the seat of Manchester North West.
In this early position he served as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonial Office. In this role he was largely involved with decision-making in South Africa where he prioritised making sure equality was established between both parties, the Boers and the British. He maintained a strong stance on issues pertaining to Chinese labour in South Africa and the butchery of Europeans against the natives.
Winston Churchill and fiancée Clementine Hozier shortly before their marriage in 1908
Later he would serve under a new Liberal leader. Under Asquith he served in a variety of roles including President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. In these roles he was instrumental in reforming prisons, acting as a conciliator during industrial disputes, boosting naval workers morale and arguing for higher pay for the navy. He was steadily climbing the ranks of the Liberal party.
In 1914 everything changed with the outbreak of the First World War. Churchill served as the First Lord of the Admiralty which unfortunately involved bad decisions when he oversaw and instigated the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign. As a direct result of its failure and facing heavy criticism back home, he resigned from his position and travelled to the Western Front to fight.
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"Churchill" redirects here. For other uses, see Churchill (disambiguation) and Winston Churchill (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable Sir
KG OM CH TD DL FRS RA
, a portrait by Yousuf Karsh at the Canadian Parliament, December 1941
Prime Minister of the United KingdomIn office
26 October 1951 – 5 April 1955
Monarch George VI Elizabeth II Deputy Anthony Eden
Preceded by Clement Attlee
Succeeded by Anthony EdenIn office
10 May 1940 – 26 July 1945
Monarch George VI
Deputy Clement Attlee (1942–1945)
Preceded by Neville Chamberlain
Succeeded by Clement Attlee
show Senior positions show Ministerial offices 1939–1952 show Ministerial offices 1908–1929 show
Born Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
30 November 1874
Blenheim, Oxfordshire, England
Died 24 January 1965 (aged 90)
Resting place St Martin's Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire, England
Political party Conservative
affiliations Liberal (1904–1924)
Spouse(s) Clementine Hozier (m. 1908)
Lord Randolph Churchill
Jennie Jerome Education Harrow School RMC Sandhurst Civilian awards Signature Military service Branch/service British Army
Territorial Army (from 1902)
Years of service 1893–1924
4th Queen's Own Hussars
Malakand Field Force
South African Light Horse
Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars
Royal Scots Fusiliers
Commands 6th bn, Royal Scots Fusiliers
Battles/wars North-West Frontier Mahdist War
Second Boer War (POW)
First World War Military awards
This article is part of
a series about Winston Churchill
Liberal PartyConservative PartyElectoral historyMP for DundeeMP for EppingMP for Woodford
Tonypandy riotsSiege of Sidney StreetNational Insurance Act 1911Gallipoli campaignRussian Civil WarIrish War of IndependenceAnglo-Irish TreatyChanak Crisis
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1926 General Strike
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
CabinetBritish invasion of IcelandHome GuardDunkirkWe shall fight on the beachesAtlantic CharterAllied invasion of ItalyTehran ConferenceOperation Overlord D-DayYalta ConferenceVE DayCaretaker GovernmentPotsdam Conference1945 general election
CabinetMau Mau UprisingMalayan Emergency
Books vteSir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill,[a] KG, OM, CH, TD, DL, FRS, RA (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Best known for his wartime leadership as Prime Minister, Churchill was also a Sandhurst-educated soldier, a Boer War hero, a Nobel Prize-winning writer and historian, a prolific painter, and one of the longest-serving politicians in British history. Apart from two years between 1922 and 1924, he was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1900 to 1964 and represented a total of five constituencies. Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, he was for most of his career a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955. He was a member of the Liberal Party from 1904 to 1924.
Of mixed English and American parentage, Churchill was born in Oxfordshire to a wealthy, aristocratic family. He joined the British Army in 1895 and saw action in British India, the Anglo-Sudan War, and the Second Boer War, gaining fame as a war correspondent and writing books about his campaigns. Elected a Conservative MP in 1900, he defected to the Liberals in 1904. In H. H. Asquith's Liberal government, Churchill served as President of the Board of Trade and Home Secretary, championing prison reform and workers' social security. As First Lord of the Admiralty during the First World War, he oversaw the Gallipoli Campaign but, after it proved a disaster, he was demoted to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He resigned in November 1915 and joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front for six months. In 1917, he returned to government under David Lloyd George and served successively as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, and Secretary of State for the Colonies, overseeing the Anglo-Irish Treaty and British foreign policy in the Middle East. After two years out of Parliament, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government, returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure and depressing the UK economy.
Out of government during his so-called "wilderness years" in the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in calling for British rearmament to counter the growing threat of militarism in Nazi Germany. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was re-appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. In May 1940, he became Prime Minister, replacing Neville Chamberlain. Churchill formed a national government and oversaw British involvement in the Allied war effort against the Axis powers, resulting in victory in 1945. After the Conservatives' defeat in the 1945 general election, he became Leader of the Opposition. Amid the developing Cold War with the Soviet Union, he publicly warned of an "iron curtain" of Soviet influence in Europe and promoted European unity. He lost the 1950 election, but was returned to office in 1951. His second term was preoccupied with foreign affairs, especially Anglo-American relations and the preservation of the British Empire. Domestically, his government emphasised house-building and completed the development of a nuclear weapon (begun by his predecessor). In declining health, Churchill resigned as Prime Minister in 1955, although he remained an MP until 1964. Upon his death in 1965, he was given a state funeral.