Welcome to Part Three of our coverage of Winston Churchill’s life, achievements, and failures. In case you missed Part One or two, we encourage you to read those first.
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Iron Curtain Speech
In Part Two, we left off with Winston being kicked out of the office by the electorate in the July 1945 election. Though he had emerged victorious in World War 2, he had one growing concern—the Soviet Union (his allies in the war victory) had begun exerting an immense influence over the whole of Eastern Europe.
Out of office and transitioning to a world statesman, the former prime minister saw an invite by US President Harry Truman as the ideal opportunity to launch his foreign policy agenda against the growing Soviet Union.
On March 5, 1946, while on the podium of Westminster College, Churchill delivered his famed Iron Curtain Speech. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent,” he warned as he articulated the threat that the Soviet Union and communism posed to peace and stability in the post-war world.
The Iron Curtain Churchill referenced was the political, military, and ideological barrier that divided Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. The term symbolized efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the West and non-Soviet-controlled regions.
Churchill's proposal to this imminent threat was the establishment of a ‘special relationship’ between the United States and the British Commonwealth as a counterforce to Soviet growing influence. This speech is regarded as one of the founding pillars of the Cold War.
The Second World War Memoirs
In the late 1940s, Churchill refocused on his writing career. During those years out of office, he published six volumes of his World War II memoirs. The series shed light on his personal thoughts, beliefs, and experiences of the Second World War.
The books were well received and quickly became best-sellers in both the UK and US. This worked out well for him since throughout his lifetime, writing often was his main source of income. In fact, from the memoirs, he earned double what he did as a Prime Minister.
Becoming Prime Minister Again
During his time out of office, Churchill also became the leader of the Conservative opposition party. In the 1951 general elections, the Conservatives returned to power with a narrow majority, and Churchill became prime minister for the second time at the age of 77.
Undoubtedly, Churchill was getting older, and it’s no surprise he reserved his energy and attention for what he regarded as the supreme issues, global peace and putting restrictions on the Soviet Union’s ever-increasing power.
In fact, housing was Churchill's only real domestic concern, and to his luck, his Minister of Housing and Local Government appointee, Harold Macmillan, was able to meet his target of building 300,000 new houses per annum.
Sadly, in 1953 Winston suffered a serious stroke and had to take four months off most of his duties to recuperate. During this time, the parliament and the public were kept in the dark. The reason they were given to explain Winston's absence- the prime minister, was exhausted and just needed to rest. As time went by, his health only declined, but he resisted urges from the political circles for his resignation.
But soon, Churchill could no longer ignore his declining health, and in April 1955, he resigned as Britain’s prime minister. He was succeeded in office by Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary and his political protege.
Life After Retirement
Having served his nation for more than 50 years, Winston was well deserving of a long-overdue break from active politics. Though he still vied for and successfully retained his parliamentary seat for one final term during the 1959 elections, he rarely attended parliamentary sittings and only occasionally participated in the voting.
Straight after retirement, he embarked on holidays, painting tours and new writing projects such as publishing a new book, History of the English Speaking Peoples.
Winston Churchill passed away in January 1965 and was given a state funeral. It was the first state funeral of a politician in the 20th century and the biggest national event since the Queen Elizabeth Coronation in 1953.
In his later years, Churchill received multiple distinguished awards that marked the great things he had accomplished.
In 1953, Queen Elizabeth made Winston Churchill a knight of the Order of the Garter shortly after her coronation the same year, and they enjoyed a close friendship in the years that followed.
In I953, he was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values".
In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy proclaimed him an Honorary Citizen of the United States.
In 1965, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was established in the United Kingdom and Australia. A Churchill Trust Memorial Day was held in Australia the same year, raising $4.3 million. Since that time, the Churchill Trust in Australia has supported over 3,000 scholarship recipients.