Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                                                                                       Version française

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Early years
Born in 1874, Winston Churchill was 66 when he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1940.

His early life was as colourful as his later years as Prime Minister. Churchill started out in the British Army, spending time in Cuba, India, Sudan and South Africa where he gained notoriety after being captured as a prisoner of war and managing to escape. It was during this period that he became a journalist which was the start of his writing career.

In 1901, having  returned to the United Kingdom, Churchill entered politics becoming a Member of Parliament. He gained promotion, changed political party, and became Home Secretary in 1910.

First World War
With the coming of the First World War, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and became a key supporter for the attack against Turkey in the Dardanelles. This was a huge disaster with many casualties. Many blamed Churchill for this but some historians dispute his culpability.

Churchill rejoined the army and saw action in trenches on the western front, narrowly avoiding death.

The Wilderness Years
After the war Churchill continued his Parliamentary career and returned to his former Conservative Party but 1929 to 1939 became for Churchill “the wilderness years”. He was still a Member of Parliament but without a real position. It was during this period that he started to recognise and warn of the dangers of Fascism. He was also a key figure in warning against British appeasement and highlighting the need to ensure British armed forces were properly resourced .

Second World War
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill was reappointed First Lord of the Admiralty but it was not until May 1940 with the Germans invading western Europe that he became Prime Minister.

Churchill’s exploits are now legendary. He was a great orator who rallied the British people with his speeches. He was good at spotting ingenuity and promoting new ideas. He had a great work ethic which he expected of others, stamping “ACTION THIS DAY” on many documents demanding that the matter be dealt with immediately. Perhaps his greatest decision was that the United Kingdom would fight on even after the fall of France and the evacuation of Dunkirk. Churchill quickly realised that the United States would be key to Britain’s survival and managed to obtain essential supplies even though at the time America would not enter the war directly, only after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

His legacy remains. In 2002, the BBC organised a poll to determine the top 10 greatest Britons. Churchill topped the list by a good margin.