Welcome to Part Two of our coverage of Winston Churchill’s life, achievements, and failures. In case you missed Part One, we encourage you to read that first.
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Churchill Becomes A Military Hero
Churchill had grown tired of the dull soldier’s life in India. He craved for real action. So in 1899, he decided to quit the army and jump into politics —just like his forefathers before him.
However, his political bid didn't start off well, and he lost his bid for the Conservative seat of Oldham by a narrow margin. Soon after he landed a job as the war correspondent for the Daily Post and was sent off to South Africa to report on the war there. Here too, things didn’t go according to plan, and he soon found himself in the crossfire.
Not a month into his new job, he got captured and taken prisoner by the Boers. Luckily, less than a month later, he escaped. Stories of his daring escape spread like wildfire back in Britain, and he returned to his home country a bonafide hero. And what better way to leverage his newfound fame than jump right back into politics.
Winston Launches His Political Career (Again)
Churchill laid siege again to Oldham in the election of 1900. This time managing to secure victory by a margin as narrow as that of his previous failure. But all that counted was that he was in! Backed by the good income, he was making from his writing; the future looked bright.
Winston wasn’t one to shy away from expressing his strong opinions and acting on them. This got him on the wrong side of his superiors, and by 1904 he had fallen out of favor with the Conservative Party.
At this point, he decided to join the Liberal Party and run for the Manchester North West seat in 1906. He won this seat and joined the new government as the undersecretary of state for the Colonial Office. Here he helped oversee the affairs of the British Empire’s numerous colonies.
In 1908 at the age of 33, he was appointed the President of the Board of Trade, making him the youngest Cabinet member since 1866.
Churchill Gets Married
Clementine Hozier faced a lot of hardship throughout her childhood, but despite this, she matured into a stunningly beautiful young woman full of intellectual prowess, resolve, and fortitude. Just like Winston, she yearned for a life of excitement.
As a result, she rejected one suitor after the other, terming them as boring. In one of those occurrences ordained by fate, Winston and Clementine found themselves sitting next to each other at a dinner party—one which neither wanted to attend in the first place. They soon found themselves engaged in a hearty and animated conversation.
This marked the start of their love affair. They were both in search of comfort as well as excitement; both had endured hardships and heartache. Six months later, they got married at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, on September 12, 1908.
The couple’s marriage lasted for a good 57 years and only came to an end on Winston’s passing away in 1965.
Fall From Power
At the outbreak of war in 1914, Churchill was serving as First Lord of the Admiralty. Sadly, most of his efforts on the battlefield resulted in disastrous defeats. One of his worst defeats was during the Dardanelles campaign.
In March 1915, during World War I, British and French allied forces launched an ill-fated naval attack on Turkish forces in the Dardanelles (Northwestern Turkey) hoping to take control of the strategically vital strait separating Europe from Asia.
This campaign, together with the Gallipoli Campaign—a year later—failed terribly. The result was approximately 205,000 British soldiers and 47,000 French servicemen died on the battlefield (plus 250,000 Turkish casualties). Churchill took a severe blow to his reputation since he had aggressively pushed for these two war strategies.
He came under heavy political attack and was demoted from his Admiralty position. Soon after, he resigned from the government and returned to active service in the military.
Churchill in the Shadows
In 1919, shortly after the end of the war, he was appointed Secretary of State for Air and War. In this role, he attended the 1919 peace talks in Paris where he took part in discussions about the state of the post-war world.
In 1922, Churchill hit one of his lowest moments. The electorate in Dundee was no longer happy with their representative. On top of that, shortly before the elections, he was gripped by a sudden attack of appendicitis.
This immensely limited his campaigning, resulting in a humiliating loss. For the next two years, he was out of Parliament.
Later as he reflected on that season in his life, he wrote, “I found myself without an office, without a seat, without a party, and without an appendix.”
The following 15 years were spent in and out of the government. In fact, he spent most of the 1930s warning the government of Hitler and Germany’s aggressive expansion, never being really accepted or heard by the powers that be.
Churchill’s Rise back to the top
On September 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s prime minister at the time, appointed Churchill to his old post in charge of the Admiralty. The next year, Chamberlain resigned due to political pressure.
At this point, the Nazi German invasion under Hitler was in full gear with the Germans attacking the British and French ground forces.
It was clear only Churchill could unite and lead the nation. A coalition government was quickly formed, and Churchill became Britain's Prime Minister on May 10, 1940. He also took up the role of Minister of Defence as he rallied the whole nation against Hitler.
He later wrote, "I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial."
Churchill Becomes a World Statesman
Toward the end of World War II, the coalition government dissolved. Churchill's desire was for the wartime coalition to remain intact until Japan was defeated. However, all the parties wanted an early election.
This forced Churchill to undertake a political campaign in the middle of a battle against Japan. Though he managed to retain his parliament seat, he saw his party reduced to 213 seats in a Parliament of 640. Records show that he learned that the electorate had kicked him out of office in the middle of the final wartime conference in Potsdam, Germany.
A plausible explanation for his loss was his misplaced focus. While his pitch mainly focussed on war efforts, the people were now more concerned about economic and social reforms. After his defeat, his wife Clementine told him, "It may well be a blessing in disguise." Churchill replied, "At the moment, it seems quite effectively disguised."
In Part 3 of this Winston Churchill Series, we will pick up from his “Iron Curtain” speech as Churchill transitioned to a world statesman and devoted himself to foreign policy.