“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” I was born in 1874 at my grandfather’s home, Blenheim Palace in Marlborough, England. My father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a member of the British Parliament and my mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American [...]


Letter to you from…


“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen”

I was born in 1874 at my grandfather’s home, Blenheim Palace in Marlborough, England. My father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a member of the British Parliament and my mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American heiress. Six years after me, my brother Jack was born.

Since my parents traveled extensively and led busy social lives, I spent most of my younger years with my nanny, Elizabeth Everest. It was my nanny, Mrs. Everest that nurtured and cared for me during my many childhood illnesses. I stayed in touch with her until her death in 1895.

At age eight, I was sent off to boarding school. I was never an excellent student but was well liked and known as a bit of a troublemaker. In 1887, when I was 12-year-old, I was accepted to the prestigious Harrow school, where I began studying military tactics.

After graduating from Harrow, I was accepted into the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1893. In December 1894, after graduating near the top of the class I was given a commission as a cavalry officer.

A change in lifestyle

After seven months of basic training, I was given my first leave. Instead of going home to relax, I wanted to see action; so I traveled to Cuba to watch Spanish troops put down a rebellion. It wasn’t just as an interested soldier that I went, I made plans to be a war correspondent for London’s The Daily Graphic. It was the beginning of a long writing career.

When my leave was up, I traveled with my regiment to India. I also saw action in India when fighting Afghan tribes. This time, again not just a soldier, I wrote letters to London’s The Daily Telegraph. From these experiences, Churchill also wrote my first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898).

I then joined Lord Kitchener’s expedition in the Sudan while also writing for The Morning Post. After seeing a lot of action in the Sudan, I used my experiences to write The River War (1899).

Again, wanting to be at the scene of the action, I managed in 1899 to become the war correspondent for The Morning Post during the Boer War in South Africa. Not only was I shot at, I was captured. After spending nearly, a month as a prisoner of war I managed to escape and miraculously made it to safety. I turned these experiences into a book – London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900).

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.”

Politics & another wave of change

While fighting in all these wars, I decided that I wanted to help make policy, not just follow it. So, when 25-year-old I returned to England as both a famous author and a war hero, I was able to successfully run for election as a member of Parliament (MP). This was the start of my very long political career.

I quickly became known for being outspoken and full of energy. My speeches against tariffs and in support of social changes for the poor showed that I did not hold the beliefs of the Conservative Party. Then I made the switch to the Liberal Party in 1904.

In 1905, the Liberal Party won the national election and I was asked to become the Under-Secretary of State at the Colonial Office.

My dedication and efficiency earned me an excellent reputation and I was quickly promoted. In 1908, I was made President of the Board of Trade (a Cabinet position) and in 1910, was made Home Secretary (a more important Cabinet position).

In October 1911, I was made First Lord of the Admiralty, which meant I was in charge of the British navy. I worried about Germany’s growing military strength and therefore spent the next three years working diligently to strengthen the British navy.

What about Family?

Being a busy man, who was nearly continuously writing books, articles, and speeches as well as holding important government positions, making time was difficult. However, I made time for romance when I met Clementine Hozier in March 1908. We were engaged on August 11 of that same year and married just a month later on September 12, 1908.

Clementine and I had five children together and remained married.

World War I

At first, when the war began in 1914, I was praised for the work done behind the scenes to prepare Britain for war. However, things quickly started to go badly for me.

I had always been energetic, determined, and confident. Couple these traits with the fact that I liked to be part of the action and you have me trying to have my hands in all military matters, not only those dealing with the navy. The public and many others felt that I overstepped my position. Maybe I did.

Then came the Dardanelles campaign. It was meant to be a combined naval and infantry attack on the Dardanelles in Turkey, but when things went badly for the British, I was blamed for the whole thing.

Since both the public and officials turned against me after the Dardanelles disaster, I was swiftly moved out of government.

“Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.”

I was devastated to have been forced out of politics. Although I was still a member of Parliament, it just wasn’t enough to keep me busy. I went into depression and worried that my political life was completely over.

It was during this time that I learned to paint. It started as a way for me to escape the doldrums, but like everything I did, I worked diligently to improve myself. I continued to paint for the rest of his life.

A decade in politics and a decade out

For nearly two years, I was kept out of politics. Then, in July 1917, I was invited back and given the position of Minister of Munitions. In 1918, I was given the position of Secretary of State for War and Air, which put me in charge of bringing all the British soldiers home.

Out of office for two years, I found myself leaning again toward the Conservative Party. In 1924, I once again won a seat as an MP, but this time with Conservative backing. Considering I had just returned to the Conservative Party, it was quite surprising that I was given the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the new Conservative government that same year. I held this position for nearly five years.

In addition to my political career, I spent the 1920s writing my monumental, six-volume work on World War I called The World Crisis (1923-1931).

When the Labour Party won the national election in 1929, I was once again out of government. For ten years, I held my MP seat but did not hold a major government position. However, this didn’t slow me down.

I continued to write, finishing a number of books including my autobiography, My Early Life. I continued to give speeches, many of them warning of Germany’s growing power. I also continued to paint and learned bricklaying.

By 1938, I was speaking out openly against British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s plan of appeasement with Nazi Germany. When Nazi Germany attacked Poland, my fears were proved correct. The public once again realized that I saw this coming.

After ten years out of the government, on September 3, 1939, just two days after Nazi Germany attacked Poland, I was asked to once again become the First Lord of the Admiralty.

Leading Great Britain in World War II

“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”

When Nazi Germany attacked France on May 10, 1940, it was time for Chamberlain to step down as Prime Minister. Appeasement hadn’t worked; it was time for action. The same day that Chamberlain resigned, King George VI asked me to become Prime Minister.

Just three days later, I gave my speech on “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” in the House of Commons. This speech was just the first of many morale-boosting speeches made to inspire the British to keep fighting against a seemingly invincible enemy.

Despite my extreme dislike for the communist Soviet Union, my pragmatic side realized that we needed their help.

By joining forces with both the United States and with the Soviet Union, we not only saved Britain but helped save all of Europe from the domination of Nazi Germany.

There is a little more to my life story. Even though I was given credit for inspiring Britain to win World War II, by the end of the war in Europe, many felt that I had lost touch with the daily lives of the people. After suffering through years of hardship, the public didn’t want to go back to the hierarchical society of pre-war Britain. They wanted change and equality.

Things changed. I was once again out of the political career. But six years after resigning as Prime Minister, I was again asked to lead Britain. On October 26, 1951, I began my second term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Then I decided it was time for me. I suffered a stroke. It was not public knowledge, and I recovered. Even though I continued to work, I knew it was time I stepped down.

If it’s one thing I learnt throughout my life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.

Yours Truly,

Winston Churchill.

Written by
Devuni Goonewardene


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